Is your smart city inclusive? Evaluating proposals from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge

Elsevier, Sustainable Cities and Society, Volume 74, November 2021
Wang C.H., Steinfeld E., Maisel J.L., Kang B.

The concept of “Smart City” has been proposed by governments, the business community, advocacy groups, and research institutions as a means to solve common urban problems and improve the quality of life for citizens. Although a Smart City has the potential to change our cities for the better, it also may unintentionally reinforce existing inequalities. In particular, without appropriate strategies that support inclusion, persons with disabilities and seniors may experience social and digital exclusion in communities. This study explored current progress toward building an “Inclusive Smart City (ISC)” through the 2015 U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge. It examined the range and frequency of inclusive strategies that were proposed by cities in their applications and the differences between successful and unsuccessful proposals. After reviewing and analyzing documentation from both rounds, we conclude: (1) insufficient attention was given to these underrepresented population groups in the proposals; (2) more ISC strategies are needed to address these groups’ needs and guarantee their rights; (3) government policies to support ISCs are needed to insure that the implementation of Smart City ideas addresses the needs of these groups; and, (4) universal design practices could be used to address the needs of many underrepresented populations.