Addressing social issues through identification and application of smart cities initiatives

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University of New Brunswick


Typically, researchers and municipalities use the smart city concept to address technical dimensions of urban projects. Smart cities studies frame their work across six major categories (i.e., government, people, living, mobility, economy, and environment) and utilize many specific measures. Technology functions as a facilitator to enable analysis and identify opportunities across all categories. An expanded role of smart cities offers authorities, urban planners, and decision makers a tool to provide better public and private services in many facets of life. To date, exploring and identifying social challenges has received relatively little attention in smart cities projects and literature. This dissertation aimed to address this gap by focusing on the generational poverty challenge within the city of Saint John, New Brunswick. The main objective of this research was to develop a new problem-solving process for urban social projects using smart cities initiatives. This dissertation was based on a three-step process: (1) identification – to investigate the main perceptions of causes of poverty in the city; (2) exploration – to identify smart cities indicators related to both the poverty challenge and the role of key stakeholders; and (3) recommendation – to suggest practical smart solutions to address the issue. Data were obtained through analysis of past poverty-reduction projects, two surveys with city stakeholders, and a review of past, ongoing, and planned poverty-reduction projects at the local and provincial levels. The results identified expected (e.g., education) and unexpected (e.g., social isolation) perceived reasons for poverty in Saint John, and showed important gaps in the interface between poverty and smart city projects, namely, a lack of a collective approach and a lack of real-time data about vulnerable groups. Although education was a top priority in terms of smart city indicators, stakeholders considered only the technological dimension of the concept. Overall, the process undertaken for this research demonstrated how the smart city concept can be applied to urban social projects using the “identify, explore, recommend” framework. Planners and researches can utilize this framework in future to employ smart cities initiative to address social challenges in communities.