The “Smart cities” report by the Institut de l’entreprise

In November 2013, French business think tank L’Institut de l’Entreprise issued a report on “smart cities” in the run-up to the March 2014 municipal elections. It was drafted by the think tank’s “public performance committee”, chaired by Augustin de Romanet and headed by Julien Damon.

Today’s cities must seize the opportunities offered by technology (efficiency, innovation and citizen involvement) while cutting public spending. The report, based on international comparative studies, takes into account national particularities and sets out proposals to turn French municipalities into smart cities.

Mindful of the difficulties that may arise from this new concept, report authors put an emphasis on experimentation, best practice exchange and tangible results; for smart cities to emerge, a case-by-case cost-benefit analysis is required. In practical terms, each local municipality should create a one-stop-shop digital portal in order to improve access to and efficiency of public service. Progress can be very rapidly achieved in the fields of transport and environment: technology can help optimize car rides or create co-working spaces.

In a broader sense, the digital revolution prompts us to rethink the design as well as they way cities and businesses work, i.e. not in isolation from one another but, on the contrary, as part of an ecosystem consisting of mutually enhancing elements. In order to support this transition towards smart cities, there is a need for innovative tax schemes as well as new public-private partnerships; on the long run, however, it is above all the people who should be the builders of their city. Direct citizen involvement requires that data be shared, but also that decisions be explained and the circulation of information be made easier.