Sustainability means inclusivity: Engaging citizens in early stage smart city development

Testbed Kunsgatan: Forskare diskuterar med medborgare.
Thor Balkhed

A sustainable urban environment depends as much on creating an inclusive space that is safe, accessible and comfortable for a diverse group of citizens as it does on deploying “smart” technologies for energy efficiency or environmental protection.

The challenge of how cities can best be designed and developed in an inclusive and sustainable direction is monumental. Smart city technologies currently offer the most promising solution to creating a long-term sustainable urban environment. However, smart city projects have been criticised for being based on a technology-centric, top-down vision of the urban space. In this vision, citizens are often less visible, or the needs of certain groups of citizens are taken as the norm. These visions risk excluding other bodies, lives and needs.Taking careful account of the diversity of human needs has the benefit not only of making urban spaces comfortable and safe for more people, but also of improving chances of new technologies being adopted by the whole community.

In this project, an experienced interdisciplinary team engaged with citizens, technical developers and “top down” stakeholders around a smart city test site in Norrköping, Sweden. The test site comprised a 1km length of road in a busy area of the city, along which a variety of static and mobile sensors was placed to gather data about the environment during 2019-2021. By integrating STS-inspired in-depth ethnographic work with the technical team and a series of Living Labs with users of the space, this project created dialogue between citizens and the technical team as they collaborated on developing a prototype app for collecting data based on citizens’ needs.

This project was financed by Formas, the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, and was conducted from 2020 to 2022. Project number: 2019-01281.

Closing festival

What do you want your city to be like in the future?

Testbed Kungsgatan

The project Testbed Kungsgatan is designing a platform to research the potential of analysing large volumes of data collected from different sources

Dialogue between citizens and researchers