Smart City : none is automatically smart only by ICTs (from ISOCARP congress)

The congress selected “Smart Communities” as the central theme, which is the other way to say about “smart city” issue. I think “smart city” might be the most popular language in urban discourse nowadays, after “green or sustainable city” term which was hipped in previous decade. However, by my naïve (or cynical) sight on having many discussions about smart city related, ‘smart city’ is mere a term which is not far different to say about our common desirable values, such as green, sustainable, equal, inclusive, healthy, efficient, etc. It is only about the most recent ‘language’ on the attempt of keep follow the trend or making re-branding on avoiding the boredom. If you keep saying “sustainable city” in the recent day, you might be looked ‘outdated’. However, instead has been apparently achieved, “sustainable city” is still very long as well as hard way to strive until now.

“Smart city” itself has no strict or any specific scientific definition to be referred. Some consider that the installment of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as “smart”. But many has realized that all of ICT things can be important supports for, but none is automatically “smart”. For more people, “smart” vaguely refers to some kinds of “logic” of the world such as connected, networked and systematical. In my opinion, the connected, networked, and systematical world is obviously “should be done” thing even without “smart” titled, and must be implemented since ago in every single aspect of lives as well, before “smart” terms has become trend. Eventually, “smart something” is becoming the newest universal language and substantially empty concept in planning : it means everything and hence nothing.

From the official general rapporteur that I cited from conference booklet, the congress would seek to reaffirm the “smart” identity and scope of planning as the art to create synergetic spatial solutions according to a specific context. In addition, the congress committee deliberately said that, today, all of those “smart” identity have to be synergized with the elements of ICTs.

The congress was divided into 6 sectoral tracks, they are :

  1. Technology, infrastructure and buildings
  2. Governance and inclusive communities
  3. Culture, community experience and the sharing economy
  4. Resilience, adaptation, and disaster mitigation
  5. Technology and small communities
  6. Post-smart communities and the new frontiers


Synchronized in my interest, I mostly choose the sessions which related with community, placemaking, citizen participation, or public engagement.

Slightly contrast with the congress mission on promoting the benefit of ICTs synergize, my strongest insight from the congress is “Smart does not entirely mean all about technology. Technology might be help, but not enough. We need to speak to people, gain trust on them to make the place where people want to live, work, and be in.”

Unconsciously, most of my attendance sessions were on track “culture community experience and the sharing economy”, and many of sessions which talk about or been experiencing the citizen engagement approach. I am who have been believing the urgency of people involvement since so long, firmly nodded in so many moments when they exposed the good impact of implement that people centered methodology.

In more detail pointers, here’s the learning that shook my mind :

  • “Planning is the essential discipline in a period of great global uncertainty”
  • Inclusivity is the fundamental basis for creating great cities.
  • How to solve problem is not about right or wrong, but better or worse
  • Open data is most essential thing in planning, considering our planning nowadays isn’t based on reliable data
  • Ensure open data is useable for public
  • Smart city usually forget about the meaning connection people to place
  • Community outreach is mostly about building trust & generating the best idea
  • Many programs or projects focus on repair the system, not the people
  • Public engagement method takes time, but worth it to discover
  • Making error in the process of public engagement is daily basis, and could not be skipped and expect the instant result
  • Could not entirely rely on online data gathering, but also importance to talk directly with people
  • Make specific approach on targeting young groups


In addition, from this congress, I had been exposed by the most recent U.S. issue which has impact with U.S. city planning, they are Amazon HQ2’s bid and Autonomous Vehicle.


After all, instead of significantly change my perspective, the congress has strengthened my believing on people power which very worth it to strive. Yet, one of the speaker literally said that this approach really takes time. Therefore, we do not have to step back, just keep moving.

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