The first pillar of a smart city – Institutional development

The concept of the smart city differs from person to person. For some, a city flourishes with its institutional growth, and for some, an excellent infrastructural development is a definition of a progressive city. To understand the sustainability and transition of a smart city, we must first trace the organic growth in its socio-technical system, which means that there is a need for a noticeable change in the institutional-material structures of the smart city.

– “Regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive elements that, together with associated activities and resources, provide stability and meaning to social life” (Scott, 1995)

The three prominent dimensions that need to be carefully considered to order to determine the development of a city as a smart city are as follows:

Regulative – A city requires explicit regulatory processes, such as formal rules, laws, policies, protocols, and standards to constitute a developed city. In case if a city fails to comply with these rules, there may have more profound implications in terms of legal sanctions. When we try and analyze how a city can develop based on the above points, we have a fair idea and understanding that the institutional analysis of smart city initiatives would elaborate on the formal dimensions of these initiatives. This should be done in such a way in which they are deep-rooted in urban, regional, national, or even international policy initiatives for urban development.

Normative – A city should have rules that introduce a prescriptive, evaluative, and obligatory dimension. This should also refer to changes like values, role expectations, social norms, duties, and responsibilities. Just in case if a city fails to comply with these rules, it may result in strong emotional responses for those who show active behavior of following the rules, which can lead to a sense of shame or disgrace. On the contrary, it would raise a feeling of pride and honor, if all rules are diligently followed. As the debate of what makes a city smart continues, it has increased the scope and needs for more inclusive development. It may also be noted that the economic, social, and ecological challenges may have a far-reaching impact and ideally should also be prioritized in order to consider a city to be smart. However, it should be a significant point of discussion for the policymakers to prioritize the smart city initiatives and form the goals.

Cognitive – To understand the cognitive dimension, we should understand the cognitive behavior of the people. The world is interpreted based on shared conceptions and frames through which the social-structure gains meaning. Comprehensively, they form implicit ‘cultural reservoirs’ or ‘cognitive logics’ for action. These schemes can lead to confusion if not conformed at the earliest stage of policy formation. Symbols, discourse, and cultural categories, and how they are ‘brought to life’ in social interactions, are essential elements of the cultural-cognitive pillar in forming a smart city. For example, in the analysis of how smart cities are framed as solutions to contemporary urban challenges and such conversational approaches have received relatively much interest in this field, in forming a critical perspective of a smart city.

The study of a smart city is framed propositions for comparison as highlighted below:

  1. Prevailing institutional pillars can be regulative, normative as well as cognitive. It configures the form of new smart city institutional arrangements (or governance arrangements).
  2. These pillars are place-specific and multi-scalar. And hence, institutional arrangements across urban contexts will differ.
  3. The study of a smart city will be based on specific facts and data. It will vary from places to places based on different features and outcomes across the urban contexts.
  4. The cities that are elected as smart cities in each country should be explored based on certain socio-cultural, institutional, technologies, and other engagements.

A smart city is not as perceived to be but as explored to be one.

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