The Czech Smart City: Communication, New Technologies, and No Useless Business Solutions

whiz-ka via flickr || CC BY 2.0

The Czech regional portal has recently conducted a research among politicians across Czech county towns. They asked a set of seemingly simple questions – what do you think of a smart city and what services a smart city should provide? Interestingly, the results, however, showed that the concept of a “smart city” has no universal definition among politicians. Among the listed answers we may find both the services that are rather instances of clever marketing and the services that are really useful and can certainly be branded as “smart”.

On the basis of the provided answers it is clear that no one is really indifferent to the concept of a “smart city”. No politician would choose to ignore modern internet-based technologies and their ability to replace complicated and costly solutions with affordable and effective alternatives. That’s promising.

Equally promising is that many politicians have clearly understood what clever solutions are: connecting the already existing services, using of the current state of knowledge, putting pressure on solutions implemented through open online platforms, encouraging interactions with citizens via tools they commonly use for communication, identification or payment, among others. The system should not produce more useless things (such as the Prague Opencard) or encourage sheer nonsense (like printing electronic forms, scanning them, and sending them by mail to take care of some local business). Rather, it should cleverly connect existing services and solutions that can be built on the existing infrastructure. 

Smart cities should not be forced on the people at all costs. We should accept the fact that we do not have to discover America and spend public money. According to the survey of the Czech Statistical Office, mobile phones are used by 98% of the population Czech over the age of 16, with 90% of the population aged over 65 years. Computers are used regularly by almost 80% of the population. In 2015, the number of Internet users was for the first time outstripped by the number of computer users, thanks to the spread of mobile Internet. Eight out of ten Czechs use email regularly. 60% of all Czech Internet users use electronic banking. Almost all adult Czechs have a credit card in their wallets. By the way, Czechs are the world leaders in contactless payments – 80% of citizens prefer to pay via payment card, not cash.

And this is the basis on which it is necessary to build smart cities of the future. Open and transparent cooperation between the public and private sectors is the only way for the clever technology we normally use to get into the scattered state news. Keep the politicians in!