Latest stories
Digital, People, Smart & Co.

From slow dance to digital change

Tokyo, Lon­don, Mex­ico City: three urb­an spaces, three mega­cit­ies, three dif­fer­ent con­tin­ents. Their attract­ive­ness for people from all parts of the world is great, yet some of their polit­ic­al and social prob­lems are even great­er. Alloc­a­tion of scarce hous­ing, gentri­fic­a­tion, noise, traffic con­ges­tion, grid­lock and viol­ence are prob­lems which large cit­ies on a mod­ern scale have to cope with. Intel­li­gent solu­tions should provide a rem­edy for these dif­fi­culties of large cit­ies. Urb­an solu­tions are diverse and are reflec­ted in vari­ous ini­ti­at­ives, con­cepts and asso­ci­ations. Insight? Not really. Des­pite the vis­ion­ary tech­no­logy ideas, many of the Smart City solu­tions are char­ac­ter­ized by short sighted­ness.

Let us begin with quot­ing Con­fucius: The jour­ney is the reward: a jour­ney not always easy to course ‑or to recog­nize in the first place. Any­one on the Aven­ida de los Insur­gentes is aware of the chal­lenges. With around 30 kilo­metres lengths this main arter­i­al road is the longest main road through Met­ro­pol­it­an Mex­ico City with around nine mil­lion inhab­it­ants (over 20 mil­lion live in the great­er met­ro­pol­it­an area). Super­lat­ives, which are inher­ently going hand in hand with anoth­er fact: traffic con­ges­tion and grid­lock. Every day, huge lines of cars roll over the ‘Insur­gentes’ and oth­er streets.

Accord­ing to an art­icle of the Neue Zürch­er Zei­tung in 2014 “roughly 2.2 mil­lion private cars were driv­ing on the streets of Mex­ico City in the year 2000. In 2010 that num­ber has ris­en to 4.5 mil­lion and the Centre for Sus­tain­able Trans­port expects this num­ber to rise even fur­ther up to 6.8 mil­lion by 2020”. In a report video from 2017 titled: “CDMX! La ciudad con más tráfico en el mundo” (Mex­ico City, the city with the most traffic world­wide) the media portal “Diario de México” presents the fol­low­ing facts: Traffic in the Mex­ic­an cap­it­al is the most chaot­ic in the world. Inhab­it­ants waste 227 hours a year in traffic jams. The aver­age speed in private trans­port is an estim­ated six (6!) kilo­metres per hour.

About digit­al interests, new impulses and the chal­lenges
Well-inten­tioned plans for smart cit­ies are one thing. But in real, how­ever, “Slow Dance” as a head­er would be much more in line with the real­it­ies on the ground. Why? In this con­text, unfor­tu­nately, there seems to be no hon­est inten­tion to involve a city’s res­id­ents because cit­izens’ object­ives are not always in line with the interests of digit­al mul­tina­tion­al cor­por­a­tions.

Exper­i­ence has revealed that digit­al mul­tina­tion­al cor­por­a­tions have an almost reli­gious atti­tude towards “smart” solu­tions and men­tion them as a kind of sal­va­tion for cit­ies and their people.

The pan-European media net­work Euract­iv writes in an art­icle on “The cit­ies of the future — Ger­many is strug­gling” that the hurdles for cit­ies are high “and in the end it is not cit­izens but private com­pan­ies that take the bene­fit”. The Digit­alcour­age soci­ety, which is com­mit­ted to data pro­tec­tion and civil rights, for­mu­lates it as fol­lows: “The focus of the Smart City is not on people, but on machines. Act­ive cit­izen par­ti­cip­a­tion is more a kind of label which has not yet been imple­men­ted in plan­ning: While, for example, numer­ous cor­por­ate groups are rep­res­en­ted in the com­mit­tees at EU con­sulta­tions on Smart Cit­ies, civil soci­ety ini­ti­at­ives have almost no place there”. And fur­ther: “This way the term ‘Smart City’ is no more than a mar­ket­ing instru­ment. Com­pan­ies exper­i­ence the Smart City as a mar­ket where their own products can be placed. They them­selves cre­ate the demand (…)”.

Big Busi­ness – Big Digit­al
Basic­ally, from a large digit­al corporation’s point of view this is legit­im­ate because its busi­ness mod­el is based on the sale of solu­tions and ser­vices. With regard to the lob­by­ing work of ‘Big Digit­al’ at EU, fed­er­al and state level this, how­ever, should be com­mu­nic­ated openly and trans­par­ently. And this ought to be self-evid­ent. Lobby­pe­dia (an inde­pend­ent, lobby-crit­ic­al online encyc­lo­pe­dia) refers to the Inter­net giant Amazon as an example: “Amazon is known for its tax avoid­ance tricks and poor work­ing con­di­tions — and is lob­by­ing intens­ively in Brus­sels. The cor­por­a­tion par­tic­u­larly act­ive dur­ing the par­lia­ment­ary pas­sage of the EU Gen­er­al Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion. Accord­ing to Lobby­pe­dia, the prox­im­ity to Ger­man polit­ics is an issue of con­cern. “The com­pany is a mem­ber of Bitkom, a digit­al asso­ci­ation with good rela­tions to the Fed­er­al Chan­cellery and the Fed­er­al Min­istry of Eco­nom­ics and Labour”.
Online retail giant Amazon intends to get a foothold in the door to smart mobil­ity. In addi­tion to auto­mat­ing ware­houses using robots, the com­pany is test­ing the util­iz­a­tion of self-pro­pelled vehicles for the deliv­ery of goods, accord­ing to a Wall Street Journ­al art­icle in April 2017. Regard­less of the pro­jects of indi­vidu­al com­pan­ies or the sci­ence of auto­mated driv­ing, this approach is too nar­row.

Smart City ideas and approaches for an intel­li­gent mobil­ity of the future must be thought ahead. New impulses are needed — not only focused on the car.

It is under­stand­able that the Ger­man car industry must keep on rely­ing on indi­vidu­al trans­port, not least because decision-makers at the exec­ut­ive floors of the auto­mobile com­pan­ies in Munich, Stut­tgart or Wolfs­burg for far too long have mis­judged the signs of change. And politi­cians know that. Eco­nom­ic and polit­ic­al choices for a basic reori­ent­a­tion are half-hearted, espe­cially when it comes to the future of the auto­mobile. Chan­ging this is a huge but import­ant chal­lenge: away from test tracks for autonom­ous driv­ing, unful­filled dreams of elec­tric mobil­ity and solu­tions for park­ing man­age­ment in the cit­ies of the Repub­lic, char­ac­ter­ized by traffic con­ges­tion and grid­lock.

It is time to rethink, to see smart as intel­li­gent rather than witty since the Slow Dance will go on oth­er­wise. For dec­ades not only Mex­ico City but, first and fore­most, met­ro­pol­ises in this coun­try have been shown how Slow Dan­cers move.

Ger­man Sum­mary
Vom Stehblues zum digitalen Wan­del
Die Gemen­gel­age urban­er Stadtlösun­gen ist vielfältig und äußerst sich in diversen Ini­ti­at­iven, Konzepten und Ver­bänden. Durchblick? Wenig. Trotz der vis­ionären Tech­no­lo­giev­or­stel­lungen fahren viele der Smart-City-Lösun­gen auf Kur­z­sicht.


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.