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GITEX TALKS People-centric smart city approach

GITEX TALKS People-centric smart city approach



The new model of smart cities is collaborative co-creation amongst all stakeholders including citizens.


Thinking of smart cities as an urban development vision that uses technology to more effectively manage a city’s assets is not only a myopic vision, but fundamentally wrong, according to Jorge Saraiva at DigitalTown. This is because it treats as an asset the essential part of the city, which is people. People are the true engine of paradigm shifting and smart cities require a new way of design thinking. This new model of city design is not top-down nor bottom-up. It is above all a collaborative way of co-creation among all stakeholders. Having this in mind, most smart city paradigms and priorities change.

As we delve deeper into the search for solutions centered on people, we discover that magical factor directly correlated with economic development and quality of life, happiness. Happiness is not a nice to have but a must have, when the goal is to position the city in the right and sustainable track for future development. The whole concept of city design changes when the goal is to set a happy ecosystem focus on people.

Key takeaways

The world is experiencing a paradigm shift from industrial to knowledge. It is a dramatic change for cities, economies and societies. For some it is a future shock and for others it is the opportunity to re-imagine and build a better world. In the knowledge era, people are the driver towards new paradigm and share a common interest, which is happiness. Cities and technologies must be designed to connect people making them happier. People will build and improve the cities and its technologies, but do not offer solutions, instead offer cooperative platforms. Focus on people’s aspirations and the reverse engineering required.

Relevance to Middle East

The global factors shaping the world economic outlook for 2017 will be reflected in the outlook for the Middle East. Growth is gaining momentum for next couple of years but the outlook for the oil market is also uncertain. These conditions are suitable to start planning a new economic alternative for the region. Cities like Dubai stand out as a notable example of taking actual momentum to set a new paradigm and mission for the region. Being the happiest city in the world by 2019 clearly demonstrate a new paradigm and embrace a new social and economic model as engine for progress.

Dubai have brilliantly defined the why? Having said that, we need to highlight the example of Dubai to remaining cities and regional enterprises but focus on the how? How to make a happy city? How to set a fertile ground for people in the region to prosper and how to digitalise such ecosystem to provide scale to succeed in the new era? Part of the goal is to start a dialogue to co-create those solutions. Gitex 2017 may be the starting point for a digital transformation of the region improving quality of living of its inhabitants.

Relevance to Africa

There are many voices and experts advising Africa to start its Industrial Revolution. It is true that Africa is confronting a triple challenge: create millions of decent jobs, protect the environment, and increase the productivity. But is also true that Africa have immense human and natural resources. Africa’s Industrialisation strategy may not be the only viable economic path though.

There are alternatives to job creation like entrepreneurial ecosystems and cooperativism. A digital transformation of the local businesses integrated on a city or region as umbrella branding may provide the continent the chance to adopt and test new economic paradigms in a much more efficient way than other countries, where their industrial heritage is too heavy that is slowing down advances into new era.

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