4. Fieldwork Methods
The study on which we base this ethnography was designed to find out the opinion of the inhabitants of the city of Malaga (southern Spain) in relation to the idea of the smart city and the different projects launched in the city related to this idea. In our case the survey was carried out with residents of Malaga in general and taking into account the associative fabric of the city. Thus, people belonging to federations and associations of neighbours and pensioners, as well as different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participated in the survey. This was posed in a simple way in the response, understandable and brief, neutral, and avoiding raising prejudices. We wanted to reach all citizens, with no exceptions based on age or academic background. To carry out this evaluation, we conducted an opinion poll of 475 residents of the city of Malaga. We believe that the sample is representative of the neighbours, made up of citizens from all districts, all ages and all levels of education. Regarding the validity of the surveys received, 475 in total, it should be noted that, after analysis, 62 of them have been eliminated, in some cases because of duplication of responses, and in others because they either did not provide information or the information they provided was erroneous. Thus, the number of valid surveys was 413.
In this section, we will focus on those issues that are a fundamental part of this article. Thus, we will present the results grouped according to the main question, that is, the relationship of citizenship with technology and citizen expectations in relation to the smart city.
4.1.1. The Relationship of Citizenship with Technology
Do you think you have adequate/sufficient training in technology? According to the data provided by the respondents, more than two thirds of them considered their training in technology to be adequate or sufficient (69%), while 31% did not consider themselves to have adequate training. This result is very interesting because it implies a positive predisposition towards technology and, therefore, towards changes that come from technology.
Do you think that technology helps to improve the quality of life for citizens? The result of this answer is categorical. The result is that 97% of those surveyed believe that technology helps to improve the quality of life of citizens. This result is in line with the result of the previous question. It marks a more than positive predisposition towards technology and all the advances and changes it brings with it.
4.1.2. Citizen Expectations in Relation to the Smart City
In which of the following areas do you think the use of technology is most important for the advancement of cities? Environment, mobility, open government, economy, governance or quality of life. For those surveyed, the area in which the use of technology is most important for the city to advance is quality of life, at 71.4%, and a long way from the second most important area for those surveyed, which is mobility with 44.8%; in third position was the area of governance with 40.2%.
Do you know what a smart city is? Respondents answered nothing familiar/unknown with 26.2% or “I have heard it before” with 26.4%, so neighbours who answered negatively represent 52.6%. While the respondents who know and have heard about it represented 31.1%, those who know it well represented 10.40% and those who know it very well represented 5.9%. In total, they represented 47.4%. This shows that respondents are tipping the balance towards the side of those who know little or nothing about the smart city.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
The reasons used to justify the reality of smart cities, according to Fernández
) were that “we opted to use the term myths, presenting as arguments that are usually used as justification for the Smart City in its most extended version and, although presented separately, all of them are interconnected and form part of the same underlying logic on the relations between technology, city and citizenship”.
Thus, efficiency is doing more with less, responding to the problems presented by the increasingly populated city, whose citizens demand the same services while municipal budgets do not increase with the population. It should also be noted that the development of smart cities has taken place in times of an economic recession and, despite requiring a high initial investment in practically all the initiatives adopted, the promise of operational and economic efficiency compensated for that effort. The reasons for economic efficiency and optimisation of public administration are to improve bureaucratic organization and optimise enterprise management. To the reasoning of the economic efficiency links that of the optimisation of the work in public administration to try to improve a form of bureaucratic organisation and apply optimization to enterprise management. In my opinion, this combination can be successful without neglecting the ultimate objectives of public policies. In addition, if it is decontextualized, you can fall into the error of turning the city into an integrated system, the management of the city as a panel of data where red, yellow and green pilots appear, where services are interconnected in such a way that it can be summarized as giving information regarding the state of each monitored service. As already noted, authors such as Khan et al.
) emphasise data collection as a fundamental part of the smart city, and the citizen as the provider of such data. The city is not exclusively its government. There is a tendency to confuse these terms and what happens in the city, always complex and unpredictable, is outside the strategy that starts from an institutional vision. In the end, it is a problem of scale. If you see the city from a bird’s eye view at a macro level, you may lose the idea of citizenship, of street politics, of the use of public space, different components of life in the city that have always been and will be in spite of advances in technology. Sustainability is at the heart of the smart city concept and conveys the idea that the solution to all the city’s environmental problems will be solved by technology. Moreover, the solutions are a kind of turnkey solution that is useful for all citizens, wherever they live, without taking into account ways of life and consumption and without implying a change in them. Any measure to improve the environmental situation involves changes in our most environmentally harmful habits. The measures implemented in a smart city seek to improve the quality of life of a standard citizen. This is contradictory to what authors such as Thomas et al.
) assert: “Smart City’s discourse tends to present the opinion that only through the deployment of technologies will improve the quality of life, which may certainly be the case for some, but not for all, within the city”, so this idea of standardisation is not the most accurate. It is a concept of sustainability that does not imply effort or responsibility, and involves acting automatically thanks to technology without the citizen having to act in decision-making. For example, “the installation of smart meters does not imply that users take measures to change their energy consumption patterns. Furthermore, concepts such as urban ecology, ecological footprint, and life cycles are not considered to solve environmental problems through Smart Cities measures” (Fernández 2016
If we look at the concept of competitiveness since the emergence of the smart city concept, there are different rankings of the most intelligent cities on the planet. The application of technology is what will make the cities that are at the top of these lists, will have success ensured by the differentiation that the new technologies represent. This competition goes hand in hand with economic growth and the attraction of talent, investors, and tourists, which will make one city more prepared than another for increasingly global economic exchanges. This is what is often called the pro-growth governance model (Tomàs 2015
). Criticism of this section appears to focus on the promotion of new cities that are mainly destined for economic activities (commercial and/or industrial) and technology districts where companies all compete, changing the idea of the city as we have conceived it since we started to live in cities. From my experience, citizens need their most basic problems to be solved, which are often related to the six areas defined by Giffinger et al. in their study, and which we have already commented on previously, but without altering the idea of the city in which they live, without forgetting that life in the city is created by citizens, with their routines and moments of leisure, filling public space. They demand improvements in the city that have to do with the social function that public space represents. We must not forget what Lewis Mumford (Mumford and Copeland 2014
) said in his book The City in History, “perhaps the best definition that can be given of the city in its most notable aspect is that it is a place dedicated to offering the greatest possibilities of meaningful conversations”. If we talk about technological integration, we have already discussed this in the efficiency section. Smart cities tend to integrate the management of the different services to achieve the improvement in decision making by having real information and giving citizens the ability to streamline procedures and travel using apps or different devices that make their lives easier. The process for the citizen is invisible, going unnoticed to the point of not having to pay attention to how it works. Nevertheless, we run the risk of the social decontextualisation of the practice involved in the use of multiple sensors and infrastructures installed in the city, which I warned about in the section on efficiency, because “technologies (…) can only be conceived as the result of social processes of negotiation and conflict” (Fernández 2016
Smart cities are not futuristic representations, but realities. This concept goes beyond a buzzword or rankings that try to compare the incomparable. They must be an impulse response for transmitting the citizen’s feelings and demands to the different areas of municipal management and to the different innovative projects. The introduction of the smart city paradigm is not a technological sprint, but a commitment to make the city more habitable to its citizens.
In addition, as we have already seen many authors, and above all, public managers, defend citizen participation as a basic principle in smart cities projects, putting the citizen at the centre of all measures. However, has this been a reality? The citizen has been seen as a data collector or asking for his or her participation to justify taking certain measures, but his or her role should not stop there. Technology has made it possible for citizens to have a greater ability to intervene in public affairs. It is a level of participation that goes beyond participation through commissions or through formal procedures, to moving towards participation through contribution and getting involved in the organisation and improvement of the city. Developing services with citizens, designing them with them, based on their needs, is called either living labs, open participation platforms or co-creation spaces. These are in both the models that justify the concept of the smart city. This idea has to go in a both directions, on the one hand there has to be a process of cultural transformation of the connected society and on the other hand, public administration has to face the transformation that the way of doing politics and of managing and organising the city. Hence, open government, but a real open government, is one of the main challenges of our cities. There are already authors such as Evans, 2016 who state that until now, the concept of the smart city is focused on testing technological solutions in the city and benefiting large technological companies, so the experimental city approach arises as a response to the need for citizen participation that turns the local community into real main actors of urban solutions. This concept would be a complement to the solutions currently implemented in smart cities. According to (Evans 2016
) “the experimental city produces a different type of city by offering new modes of engagement, governance and politics that challenge and complement conventional strategies, such as the ongoing smart city strategies”.
If we focus on the results of our study, we can highlight that the residents of the city of Malaga have a more than positive attitude to the use of technology to improve the city. Actions in this direction have been undertaken in the city for some time now. The area where they think it is most important to use it is in the improvement of quality of life, mobility and governance. These results correspond with data from the report of the Directorate General for Internal Policies of the European Parliament (Manville et al. 2014
), which shows that Spain is among the countries with the most smart governance projects and smart mobility initiatives. In Malaga this pattern has been reproduced. This data contrast with the fact that more than half of the population either does not know what a smart city is or has only heard of the term. Exclusively 16.3% of the population knows well or very well, what a smart city is. This must lead us to reflect whether, if the inhabitants of a city in which many actions related to the smart city have been carried out and the majority do not even know what it consists of, does that demonstrat a distance from the concept and an evident lack of participation? It distances citizens from empathy with these types of actions, which are fundamental to fostering social capital in actions of this type, which focus precisely on efficiency and the search for data, without taking face-to-face interactions into account. As Thomas et al. (Thomas et al. 2016
) recognise, “the intelligent vision of the city seems to be a utopian vision of technology, rather than a citizen-centered vision, which is being used to address complex urban problems”. With this article I want to put the focus on people over smart cities because citizens have the right to build the city they want, the city they dream of. According to (Harvey 2003
), the right to the city goes beyond individual access to the city’s resources: it is a right of individuals that necessitates a transformation in the city. When one understands the problems to which citizens want to respond, action can be taken on a large scale. We hope that this work serves to underpin the idea that it is necessary to take into account the citizen in the discourse on smart cities (Thomas et al. 2016
; Calzada 2018
There is still a long way to go in relation to the role of citizenship in the field of smart cities. In the end, what we must ask ourselves is what form of city we want and need.
We believe that this work has its limitations. The opinions of the citizens were collected only in the city of Malaga. We have already said that the concept of the smart city varies depending on factors such as location, knowledge of technology, and local government, so it is very interesting to contrast data collected from different cities for comparison. In addition, the review of the literature has been carried out through the consultation of multidisciplinary works. We consider it very interesting in the future to delve into the relationship with other disciplines related to smart cities, such as human geography, urban planning, and urban informatics, among others. Other lines of future research would be to approach the issue of citizen participation by raising the smart city as opposed to the smart citizen (Hemment and Townsend 2013
) or to confront the top-down and bottom-up approaches (Chelleri et al. 2015
; Calderon and Chelleri 2013
). This research, the fruit of my work with and for citizens in the field of a smart city, aims to reflect on the meaning of smart cities and the role that the citizen plays in this approach. As Italo Calvino said (Calvino 1972
), “I could tell you how many steps are in its streets, of what type of arches of its arcades but already I know that what sheets of zinc cover the roofs; but I know already that it would be like not telling you anything”. The city is not made of this, but of relations between the measures of its space and the events of its past. Our children deserve the best of cities.