Opinion – Fashionable things

The Science and Technology Council met this week and announced that the Smart City development strategy is almost complete (“70 to 80 percent of the works are complete).

The project is in its ‘second phase,’ and its final document was submitted for higher authority approval. It all depends now on “how the project will be coordinated with other public entities.”

All this seems vague. At times, one struggles to understand what it means. It prompts several questions. What are the remaining phases, if they are formally defined? Who is supposed to approve the final document, and where does one go on from there? What are the “coordination” issues implied in the statement, if they have been specifically identified?

The problem with this subject, which was in public consultation earlier this year, is that the number of questions seems never-ending. The answers, in comparison, are often left wanting. The consultation report, as it is made available for download, appears as hardly more than a long list of questions.

The title may be a misnomer. First, as the downloaded document title makes clear, it is a summary. Secondly, it is essentially a Q&A document, and it includes way more Qs than As. It seems meant to explain and promote more than to stimulate meaningful inputs.

The report lists dozens of questions raised during the meetings and public sessions made, most of them coming from other public departments. Some items listed are so elementary as to be almost perplexing. Does the “Smart City “project have a calendar? Who is responsible for the project?

On occasions, the summary report puts forward recommendations. Their source is seldom evident. Is it the commission leading the study? The public departments? The general public?

The development project itself does not seem too exciting. Its language is long in statements of broad ambition, but the specific undertakings identified are unlikely to fire the imagination. Just one example, the “intelligent public illumination” amounts mostly to discussing the usage of lamp posts as a support for WIFI routers and the replacement of older bulbs by LED lights. Things like these do not require much strategy development or long and complicated consultation and decision processes.

As the original consultation document (unintentionally?) states in its opening sentence, “the Smart City is the new fashion in municipal [sic] development and planning.” Indeed, but it could be way more than that.