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Many cities in Israel and abroad strive to become part of the digital age. This compatibility is a complex and systemic process which influences all aspects of life in the city. Internet infrastructures today enable innovation in the fields of health, education, economy, energy resource management, environment, security, transportation, emergency management’ political participation, and civilian involvement.
However, the “Smart City” is, in fact, a marketing concept that should be used, if at all, with caution, according to an Israeli research report – The city in the digital age: Planning, technology, privacy and inequality.
The research, by Prof. Tali Hatuka (editor), Prof. Michael Birnhack, Dr. Eran Toch, and Hadas Zur, Tel-Aviv University, poses a critical perspective regarding the suitable planning of cities in the digital age, replacing “Smart City” with the concept “a city in the digital age”.
Smart City is a relatively new model which grew from the private sector, and as such – literature about it can be divided into two major types. The first is commercial content concentrating on the advantages of the Smart City and the necessity of digitalization for the development of the urban space; the other contains academic ideas, sometimes utopian, about the concept.
However, there is still not enough information about the Smart City as an urban development policy and regarding the way this policy refers to legal limitations, social and political needs, or information regarding implementation.
The researchers claim that the digitization processes influence every city in a different way, influenced by the profile of its residents, their needs and way of life. Therefore, digital projects integration requires an acquaintance of the decision makers and planners with basic digital concepts and an understanding of the opportunities and the risks entailed with the technological revolution.
One of the interesting conclusions of the research published on Smart City projects in Israel might cause the widening of disparity. Each city running separately on the race for the Smart City might widen the gaps between cities in Israel. In the absence of a wide perspective and responsibility by the State taking upon itself to advance cities, weakened regions and settlements, existing disparity might be worsened between the center and the periphery, and even between neighboring cities. The competition among cities should be replaced with regional thinking.