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Rio de Janeiro is one of a growing number of cities that want to become smarter about what is happening and is about to happen within their city limits. “Smart cities” are popping up around the globe — from China, where 193 smart cities are being piloted as part of the country’s urban renewal plan, to Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. The development of smart cities involves a wide scope of technology, everything from renewable energy, green buildings and smart grids to traffic management, urban security and medical technology.
Beneath the giant Christ the Redeemer statue that towers over the City, the “Centro De Operacoes Prefeitura Do Rio,” [Rio Operations Center] monitors the life of the city in real time, 24 hours a day — everything from the traffic on main roads (with hundreds of live cams), to the city’s social mood, to the weather. It takes 400 professionals working in three shifts around the clock to help process and integrate information from 30 different government agencies. Data is visualized on an 80-square-meter screen in a central control room.
The goal: urban sustainable development and economic growth. Opportunities abound for businesses and entrepreneurs to be part of this global urban revitalization effort. The question is, what are the management risks of more smart cities?
A recent paper, The Real-Time City? Big Data and Smart Urbanism developed by Rob Kitchin, a researcher at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland, raises three concerns regarding managing smart cities:
- Technocratic governance: Smart-city proposals are based on an approach that is narrow in scope, reductionist and functionalist, derived from a limited set of particular kinds of data. They fail to take into account the wider effects of culture, politics, policy, governance and capital that shape city life and how it unfolds. At the same time, command systems centralize power and decision making into a select set of offices and make elements of data publicly available.
- “Corporatization” of city government: Smart-city agendas and associated technologies are being heavily promoted by a number of the world’s largest software services and hardware companies.