Smart Cities are founded upon active citizen engagement. People use infrastructure that is intelligent, business practices adapt to provide smarter participation, educational institutions support intelligent learning and policies connected to governance become more aware, capable and useful for people. There is no mystery that true e-Democracy is built upon true Smart City development. The question is: how much do we understand about what Smart Cities means? And what is the context we use to gain that understanding?



E-Democracy for Smart Cities

Edited by
Vinod Kumar


2017 | 551 pages ISBN: 978-981-10-4034-4


Reviewed by

Jeff Thurston


Smart Cities are currently a hot topic. The term is in the media, spoken about by many in the business community, manufacturers and planners alike. There is little doubt that a combination of marketing, product development, social interaction and political awareness - all seemingly tied environmental sustainability are also supporting the rise and populariy of the term. This has raised many questions, no doubt. Most of them positive since the ultimate outcome is a desire to improve livability and conditions within urban and rural environments for citizens. But how much do we really understand what Smart Cities are about?

The book E-Democracy for Smart Cities, edited by Vinod Kumar includes a collection of presentations that are aimed at raising awareness about the link between smart cities in theory and how citizens link with them for a fuller democratic representation. The guiding principle here is: "the rightful role of citizens as per the constitution of the country for participation in Governance of a smart city using electronic means such as high speed fiber optic networks, the internet, and mobile computing as well as Internet of Things that have the ability to transform the dominant role of citizens and technology in smart cities."

The author begins by explaining and discussing what democracy means. Normally, most of us would understand this. However, he is aiming to describe what democracy, in detail, means for specific places around the world and what citizens perceive it to be. This has important implications for what is to follow, since technological aspects will need to adapt to these perceptions, views and understandings. Described are Lagos, Hong Kong, India and Russia. Kumar talks about 'Smart City Economy' and 'Smart People' as well as Good Government, advantages and disadvantages of democracy and the wider context of e-Democracy in governments. Notably, there can be e-Democracy for Smart Cities as compared to e-Democracy within Smart Cities. We find an abundance of talk about Smart Cities originates more than a decade ago within the European Union.  In fact, 10 models are outlined. 

As might be expected, e-Democracy is highly linked with E-Governance, consequently, Smarter places will invariably tie both into the equation that delivers improved intelligent systems. Examples of this are ePetitioning, eVoting, eConsultation, designing games for engagement and so on. These can be shown in the Lagos, Nigeria region which is building more infrastructure that is delivering online engagement to citizens. In Feroke, India participatory planning is rising through greater citizen involvement. 

A history of citizen engagement for Hong Kong is detailed. This includes the development of Kai Tak Airport region and the South East Kowloon Development. Indian theories for e-Governance are outlined and described in detail and readers learn about the connection of these policies in relation to Smart Cities devlopment. Dubai is also included, and it is noted that the region is Leapfrogging e-Democracy, that in reference to the fact that citizens and private business have engaged in a close relationship beyond the oil industry alone. It should be recognized that the Dubai region has acted early and innovatively in terms of exploring and expanding Smart City activity. This book describes in length, the activities in Dubai and covers a wide selection of actions and topics. 

Water management has a particularly important relationship in Smart Cities evolution, and this is described for India where nearly 50% of the population is living in  urban areas. As such, sustainable water management programs are being developed to meet these challenges, giving rise to smarter water systems.

It should be noted that as Smart Cities evolve, new innovations in infrastructure are expected to both deliver and respond to citizen engagement. Improved power management ought to deliver consistent, higher quality electricity. Water quality should improve and telecommunications systems ought to deliver more and better quality internet. 

This text is highly significant for the documentation of records, maps, graphics and other details that have been included to support the text. We can see the evolution in specific locations, and we can see the results of decision making. The editor and contributors have included a wide range of detail that is often not otherwise available. All of this helps toward understanding what 'smart' really means and what it can do. A section on tools and information systems for working with data is included and we see the importance of cadastral systems and the use of geographical information systems (GIS) in the development of Smart Cities. Much of activity in geo-referenced applications, mapping and geospatial activity is anticipated to be delivered through Cloud-based GIS systems. As such, mobility tools will deliver a wide range of information to public citizens. 

The final sections of the book describe some of the future aspects of population growth, needs in relation to smart places and technologies as well the need for governance and improved e-Democracy going forward. 

In summary. E-Democracy for Smart Cities is a very well documented and delivered text about Smart Cities and e-Democracy. The editor keeps the relationship of democratic principles at the front in terms of technological evolution. This means the text remains focused on delivering benefits to people, rather than simply describing innovative technology alone. 

Supported with a wide range of graphics, maps, existing reports and details about Smart City projects from different places, this book is very informative and acts as a reference in terms of thinking about Smart Cities. The text answers more questions than it asks, and that is sorely needed at a time when so many people are getting confused about what Smart Cities really mean and involve. I think the editor has done a remarkable job of collecting the right information, presenting it and informing readers about this important topic. If you are a student or someone involved in urban planning or related Smart technologies - this is an important book to read.