Connectivity is improving lives & business
Are you living in a digital city? If not, then you soon could be. By equipping urban spaces with sensors, actuators and Internet of Things connectivity, rich data can enhance all aspects of city infrastructure. If this is starting to sound a lot like smart cities, that’s because they’re essentially the same thing. However, for a city to be truly smart, it has to digitalise. The rise of the digital city is a dynamic example of how connectivity is influencing our lives, from the collection of waste to the management of transportation. Whether or not we have achieved a fully developed digital city is debatable, but the adoption of digital city technology is clearly a global trend. So where exactly are they?
1. Los Angeles
Sitting shoulder to shoulder with Silicon Valley, it comes as no surprise that LA has taken significant steps towards digitalisation. Under Mayor Garcetti, the Information Technology Agency has built an open data portal, helped launch 34,000 digital businesses and made a public commitment to collaboration, cybersecurity and open government. As well as supporting the evolution of existing businesses, the city is actively helping innovative companies to find their feet. LA received a first place award in the US Digital Cities Survey 2016, and continues to demonstrate its pledge to open data via a Performance Dashboard which publishes government finance information. This, along with the city’s willingness to support startups, is likely attract other young technology firms to the area.
The European Digital City Index (EDCi), which measures digital involvement and entrepreneurship, awarded Stockholm the third highest rating in 2015. Since then, Stockholm’s City Council has created a strategy to encourage ecological, financial, social and democratic stability. The Scandinavian metropolis has also partnered with the Royal Institute of Technology and technology company Ericsson to set up an innovation arena called Digital Demo Stockholm. This space will be dedicated to the development of digital solutions. Sweden is supposedly the best country in the world to do business in, with Stockholm as an obvious centre point. Between 2015 and 2016, investments in Stockholm tech companies almost tripled.
The Netherlands’ picturesque capital was ranked second in EDCi 2015, and has become a well established digital stronghold. Facebook, Netflix and Salesforce are among the influential businesses to choose Amsterdam as the base for their European headquarters. Amsterdam’s appeal lies in its gradual development as a European technology hub, as well as its straightforward bureaucracy. The Dutch Chamber of Commerce offers businesses resources, advice, and simple business ownership requirements. English is a universally spoken language, which eases the language barrier for English-speaking businesses. As well as hosting a plethora of connectivity giants, the city is home to an innovation platform called Amsterdam Smart City which improves urban life by utilising data analytics.
Finland’s capital is taking pioneering steps towards digital city development through the creation of a smart urban district called Kalasatama. The district will be completed by 2030, and aims to reduce the time that inhabitants spend on everyday chores by one hour per day. There are already 3,000 residents in the district, with space for 17,000 more. Helsinki also encourages open development, hosting regular hackathons and open data apps competitions. The Helsinki Business Hub (HBH) was set up to accelerate business growth, and supplies a range of free resources to companies including introductions to international investors and corporate matchmaking. In a study carried out by the World Bank, Helsinki ranked 13th out of 183 economies for ease of business operations.
London topped the 2015 EDCi rankings and has invested heavily in technological growth. The UK’s capital is home to around 47,000 digital technology companies. Digital city technologies currently in use within London include autonomous delivery van networks and electric vehicle charging. As Britain readies itself to leave the EU, embracing digitalisation will be more important than ever. London’s Square Mile business district is a famous centre for innovation, and is now benefitting from a multimillion pound investment to improve connectivity in the area. The aim is to enable more businesses to access the skills they need to understand and benefit from digitalisation.
Digital cities were once little more than an interesting concept. However, thanks to digitalisation, design and engineering, developers have the tools needed to turn this idea into a reality. In the last few years, municipal involvement in the adoption of connective technologies has accelerated. This is mainly due to the realisation that connectivity breeds efficiency, as well as the growing availability of resources and personnel. But as shown by all of these examples, digital cities aren’t just about connecting things – they’re about improving citizens’ lives. Now that cosmopolitan cities across the globe are committing themselves to the creation of digital infrastructures, it’s only a matter of time before other urban centres decide to do the same.