UN Habitat Playbook “Centering People in Smart Cities”

UN Habitat launched a new series of playbooks as part of its People Centered Smart Cities flagship program. I was happy to be a peer reviewer last year for the first in the series, Centering People in Smart Cities (PDF).

The playbooks aims to provide “practical guides for cities, regions and other organizations that want to take a people-centered approach to smart city development. Over on LinkedIn, UN Habitat program manager Pontus Westerberg shares a little more background.

They’re good documents, definitively worth reading, especially if you work with local government.

Here’s a quick section to give you an idea:

UN Habitat has compiled best practices from government, the private sector and civil society into five pillars of people-centered smart cities.

The Community Pillar
This pillar addresses how local governments can work to place people and their
needs at the center of smart city development.

  • Activity 1: Center smart city activities on people’s needs.
  • Activity 2: Ground smart city infrastructure and services in Digital Human Rights by maximizing community participation, representation, transparency and control
  • Activity 3: Provide digital public goods open, transparent, accessible, interoperable.

The Digital Equity Pillar
This pillar addresses how to build equitable access to ICTs with : focus on internet connectivity, digital skills, and digital devices.

  • Activity 4: Build a foundation of universal access to affordable internet, digital skills and digital devices.

The Infrastructure Pillar
This pillar addresses how to drive inclusive digital transformation by developing systems, processes and policies for managing data and digital services.

  • Activity 5: Improve the corvenience and accessibility of services by digitizing them
  • Activity 6: Create a data govemance framework that sets standards and responsibilities for effectiveness, accountability and inclusivity.

The Security Pillar
This pillar addresses how local governments and national governments can work in unison to achieve secure smart city assets including data and infrastructure in order to improve public trust.

  • Activity 7: Safeguard public trust by protecting smart city assets.

The Capacity Pillar
This pillar addresses how to develop multistakeholder partnerships and build
organizational capacity that better facilitates people-centered smart cities.

  • Activity 8: Collaborate with diverse stakeholders to build smart city projects, infrastructure an
  • Activity 9: Expand the capacity of city staff for digital transformation.
  • Activity 10: Evaluate the need technology and address equity. tide and social justice city initiatives.

If there was one aspect I’d put a somewhat stronger emphasis on, it would be this: There’s rightfully a lot of calls for involving civil society in smart city debates along all stages of the process. But civil society organizations have limited resources — so making sure that there are budgets in place to allow civil society organizations to participate seems essential. All too often, those organizations are either not called upon at all or called upon but without budgets cannot commit the necessary time to make meaningful change — which isn’t that much better. So, put funds aside to remunerate those NGOs for their time. That should just be part of these processes to begin with.

Anyway, great series of playbooks. I recommend skimming them so you know where to come back to when you need a deep dive.

Leave a Reply