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People, not pixels: The true essence of smart cities

Article-People, not pixels: The true essence of smart cities

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The digital revolution, which has been reshaping the contours of our world, has also brought to life the concept of 'smart cities.'

 According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, smart city technologies could potentially contribute to an annual economic impact ranging from $1.7 trillion to $2.6 trillion by 2025. 

Yet, what is the essence of a smart city?

It's not just about technology, efficiency, and sustainability, but about fostering a truly human-centered urban environment. Here, Saudi Arabia serves as an illustrative model.


Vision 2030, a meticulously-crafted initiative, lays strong emphasis on enhancing citizens' quality of life in Saudi Arabia. This ambition encompasses improved access to critical services such as healthcare, education, and transportation. But more than that, it envisions creating a city environment that is not just secure but one that fosters a sense of belonging and community among its residents.


While technology is often the focus in discussions about smart cities, in reality, it serves as a means to an end. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is not only aiming to integrate technology but use it to enhance everyday living - from smarter traffic management to energy optimisation and improved healthcare accessibility.

However, being 'smart' goes beyond technology. It encompasses the city's inhabitants and their relationships. A smart city in the Saudi context, therefore, prioritises safety, connectivity, growth opportunities, and high living standards.


The path to designing human-centric smart cities comes with its hurdles. The digital divide remains a significant concern – ensuring everyone can participate in the digital economy is crucial. Also, privacy and data security demand vigilant care as cities collect more and more data about their residents.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of smart cities are vast and transformative. By making our urban spaces people-focused, we can create environments where everyone has a chance to prosper.


As we navigate these challenges, the prospect of human-centered smart cities remains transformative and rewarding. Building urban spaces that are not just technologically advanced but also tuned to the needs of people, can create an environment where everyone has a fair chance to thrive. This global vision of smart cities is making significant strides, with the International Data Corporation predicting global spending on smart city technologies to reach a staggering $189.5 billion in 2023.

Amid this surge, Saudi Arabia, with its projected investment of $500 billion in developing smart cities by 2030, stands out as a strong contender in this global race. This comprehensive approach to urban development - weaving together technology with the needs of its citizens - is building a future where sustainability and livability become synonymous with urban living.

Around the globe, from Singapore's Smart Nation initiative to Barcelona's open data platform, and from Columbus, Ohio's integrated transportation system to South Korea's greenfield smart city in Songdo, the seeds of human-centered smart cities are sprouting. As Saudi Arabia continues its journey, the world awaits more innovative and inclusive solutions that will redefine the future of urban living.



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