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Prioritising tech will result in ‘socially exclusive’ cities

Words: Laura Edgar
Community / Shutterstock: 144653342

Failing to put people and communities before technology when planning for smart cities and transport networks could see communities become divided and ‘socially exclusive’, says a report.

Rethinking Smart Futures, by PwC and London Transport Museum, sets out the challenges to achieving smart cities that are inclusive and focus on people.

The report draws on five round tables with industry leaders, policy-makers and academics as part of London Transport Museum’s programme Interchange.

Grant Klein, transport leader at PwC, explained: “We found three key hurdles in developing smart cities: too much choice from an array of innovations; too many cooks with competing interests, which can lead to inaction or disconnects; and when it comes to strategies, one size definitely doesn’t fit all cities. Our report analyses how to navigate and overcome these roadblocks.”

There are elements of the smart city emerging in the UK to tackle a variety of issues facing the transport and health sectors, for example, in cities including Leeds and Birmingham.

But Klein described progress across the UK as “piecemeal”.

“If we are to encourage economic growth and meet the evolving needs of our citizens, we need to step things up a gear and put transport at the heart of every decision.”

The report calls for central and local government, the public sector, and private industries to join forces to take forward a number of recommendations, including:

  • Defining a shared vision for the UK’s smart future and redefining measures for success.
  • Establishing a new regulated national transport framework for public-private procurement and investment in innovation and technology.

Sam Mullins, director at London Transport Museum, said: “Often, the pursuit of new technologies has been the driving force behind our move towards a smarter future. But if the advancement of technology remains an end in itself and is not motivated by meeting the needs of people, then we risk creating smart cities and transport networks which result in communities across the UK becoming divided and socially exclusive. Bringing together perspectives from industry leaders, policy-makers and academics, our latest Interchange report looks towards a smart future for the UK that is focused on people.”

The report was produced in collaboration with law firm Gowling WLG and security firm Thales.

Rethinking Smart Futures can be found on the PwC website.

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