Editorial Pick 2015: Is higher education heading toward a smart city future?

A series of papers around the world researches relationships between innovative universities and tech-based city planning.

smart-city-future[Editor’s Note: Our editorial picks include stories the editors believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016.]

According to researchers around the world, there is increasing momentum from some of the world’s most innovative universities to align curriculum, research and overall mission to city development that specifically focuses on technology-based systems and services. In other words, progressive higher education is linking itself more than ever to the Internet of Everything.

The research is part of a special edition issue from Knowledge Management & E-Learning (KM&EL), which presents nine cases of higher education’s alignment to “smart cities of the future,” including cities in Italy, India, the U.S., Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Tanzania, South Africa, and Canada.

In an introduction by Dr. Fanny Klett, director of the German Workforce Advanced Distributed Learning Partnership Laboratory, and Dr. Minhong Wang, associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong, and director of the Knowledge Managing & E-Learning Lab, the authors explain the concept of a smart city as any city utilizing technology as a critical enabler to solve rising urbanization issues and improve the cities’ environments according to a set of priorities (usually through initiatives such as e-Home, e-Office, e-Government, e-Health, e-Education and e-Traffic) to create a common framework for the city’s performance.

Smart cities currently thriving include those in Barcelona, Chicago, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Yokohama, as well as many in India. In fact, the Indian government plans to develop 100 smart cities by 2022, with an economic value of the Digital India initiative estimated to be $600 billion over the next 10 years.

However, the only chance for a smart city’s success, note the authors, is to ensure that its citizens are motivated, and enabled, to be a driver for these innovations. This motivation hinges on businesses’ and academia’s willingness and readiness “to modernize their approach to the citizen’s inclusion and immersion in education and services in the fast changing conditions of the global market;” specifically, in developing collaborative and tech-based skills.

In the U.S., many smart city initiatives “address the challenge of developing a highly educated workforce and creating more jobs,” write the authors. For example, enabled by an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, Chicago integrated career and technical education, building a pipeline from high school to college to employment, and creating the Roadmap for Career and Technical Education.

(Next page: 9 examples)