What are the three things that make a city smart? Walkability, Walkability and Walkability..

It is like this question – What are the three things that matter in retail trade? location, location and location.

Likewise, what matters in any city or wannabe smart city is its walkability quotient. It is not that smart city means fancy buildings, technology and cars everywhere. It just means ensuring that walking is facilitated using the technologies.

Sanjeev Sanyal explains in this must read article:

As one can see, the success of 21st century cities is dependent on the density of soft/ hard infrastructure, the quality of human interaction and the churn of people. Yet, a lot of the discussion on “smart cities” has been hijacked by visions of technological Disneylands. This is unfortunate as the deployment of digital technology will only work if it strengthens the underlying urban drivers discussed before.

As already pointed out, the smartness of a city is about clustering smart people and institutions, and encouraging interaction. One obvious way to encourage this is by building institutions of higher learning inside the city as an integrated part of the urban landscape. This would create a flow of young people that would benefit the city. However, this is totally different from how Indian universities and institutes have been built in the last half century—usually as large walled campuses that have nothing to do with the nearby city.

This is a waste for both the city and the university. cities like Kanpur and Kharagpur benefit nothing from being host to an IIT. Contrast this with how universities like Columbia, NYU, MIT, Harvard, and Oxford are an important part of their host cities. Meanwhile, Indian universities in isolated campuses hurt from not being able to attract faculty because they cannot cater for the family and social life of their staff. The spouse of a talented young professor can hardly be expected to live in Nalanda, no matter its historical associations, when its promoters continue to live in modern global cities. As pointed out, we no longer live in a factory town world where the husband goes to work and the wife sits at home darning the socks.

This does not mean that digital technology cannot be used fruitfully to smarten cities. Here is an illustration of how it can used to support a critical ingredient of a 21st century city – walking. As we have discussed earlier, the keys to success of a post-industrial city are density of human capital and hard/soft infrastructure. This preference for concentration means that a successful city, almost by definition, will suffer from severe traffic congestion. This means that walking quickly becomes the best option for short distances and public transportation for longer distances. Note that public transportation too depends on walkability for the first/last mile. This is why the most advanced cities in the world invest heavily in walking infrastructure: Singapore’s business district is now connected by underground tunnels, Hong Kong has created a network of elevated walkways, New York has similarly built the High Line.

Nice bit.

Most smart things are only smart if they can help get the basics right. If a smart phone has all jazz but poor in talking then it is a dumb phone. Same goes with smart city as well..

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