Be smart and put locals first

Administrators all over the world are extremely keen on smart cities as a way of combatting the urban challenges like congestion, pollution and lack of road safety. But they would do well to also consider the wishes of the local community, as The Guardian reports.

The town of Santa Maria Tonantzintla, three hours out of Mexico City, was set to become part of a large smart city project in the state of Puebla. Like in the neighbouring town of Atlixco, the project is aimed at improving traffic flow and facilities for non-motorists. “This was all so that the community would benefit,” the architect of the project, Victor Campos, told The Guardian.

A Question of Need

But only a week after work has started on transforming the central plaza in order to provider more space for events, protests came in from residents, who complained about a lack of consultation -only one round with 15 or 20 residents, one critic claims – and no heed to what the residents themselves feel they need.

As one Tonantzintlan said: “When politicians ask us what we want, we tell them we want a clinic, parks, things to entertain ourselves, so we don’t have to go all the way to Puebla [city] to go out.” The improvements, they claim, seems aimed at outsiders and tourists rather than locals.

Bad Example, Good Example

It doesn’t help that the perceived results from Atlixco, the ‘first smart city of Latin America’ are a mixed bag at best. A new bicycle lane was removed after half a year as it was barely used, and businesses complain about a steep drop in sales. There is also a good dose of local pride in play. Getting rid of characteristic cobbled streets to facilitate traffic is not to the taste of many who live in the direct area. The Guardian cites Smart City Hub and takes Eindhoven as an example of a smaller municipality where the Smart City concept is fully embraced.

The Tonantzintla project is still going. The question is whether it can be a success with local inhabitants not on board. In any case, it shows the importance of canvassing exact needs and communicating goals.

 

*) Source header: Shutterstock

**) This article was brought to you by Michiel van Blommenstein

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