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Is Italy ready for the implementation of Smart Cities?

Economic Development

The collaboration between Italy & Partners and Rome Business School continues. One of the latest research projects initiated focused precisely on Smart Cities and, in particular, Italy’s readiness for implementing new practices. This study has been performed as a part of the “Capstone Project” carried out by students of the International Master in Data Science at the Rome Business School. 

Here are all the details of the research narrated in the first person by Hadeel T. Alkhatib and Yassine Homri, who developed this work.

Interview with the Students from the Rome Business School

What was the purpose of the project?

Hadeel: The purpose of the project was to analyze successful smart city initiatives globally and identify best practices that could be adapted to bridge the gap and accelerate smart city development in Italian cities.

Which cities did you consider?

Yassine: We focused on analysing successful smart city initiatives in global cities like Japan, Zurich-Switzerland, Auckland-New Zealand, Oslo-Norway, Copenhagen-Denmark, Singapore, Amsterdam-Netherlands, Helsinki-Finland, New York City-USA, Hong Kong-China, Lusail City-Doha, NEOM-Saudi Arabia and in Italian cities also like Milan, Bologna, and Turin.

Why did you choose those specific cities?

Hadeel: We chose these cities because they represent successful examples of smart city development. Each city has implemented innovative solutions in areas like sustainable transportation, public-private partnerships, and citizen engagement, making them relevant learning points for Italian cities.

Did you noticed any unexpected cultural differences among the different areas analyzed?

Yassine: While the project didn’t directly focus on cultural differences, some variations in citizen engagement approaches or public-private partnership models were observed across the cities. However, the core challenges and goals related to smart city development (sustainability, efficiency, improved quality of life) remained consistent across these Italian cities.

What is the most original and unexpected aspect that emerged from the research?

Hadeel:  While analyzing citizen engagement strategies, we found the emergence of gamification as a growing trend to be particularly interesting. One example that stood out was the pilot program launched in Rapperswil, Switzerland, called the “Smart City Challenge.” This initiative utilized a points system and badges to incentivize citizen participation in proposing solutions for urban challenges. This approach struck us as unexpected because it offered a fresh perspective on fostering public involvement. Traditionally, citizen engagement often relies on surveys or public forums. However, gamification in this context injects a sense of fun and competition, potentially leading to increased participation and a wider range of creative solutions from residents.

Yassine: One peculiar discovery in the realm of smart cities research is the use of “smart dust.” This concept involves tiny wireless sensors, often the size of a grain of sand, scattered throughout urban environments to gather data on various parameters like temperature, humidity, air quality, and movement patterns. These sensors can communicate with each other and with a central system, providing real-time information for city management and optimization. It’s a fascinating, albeit somewhat surreal, example of how technology is infiltrating every aspect of urban life.

What difficulties did you encounter during the research and how did you solve them?

Hadeel: One challenge encountered was accessing detailed data on specific smart city initiatives in some of the analyzed cities. To overcome this, we diversified our research methods by utilizing official city reports, academic studies, and news articles alongside available data sources.

Yassine: The main difficulty that we have faced during this research was the lack of data found on the web. Which was understandable since this type of information isn’t bound to be published and shared for the public. From what I understood, is that most of the information that was needed will mostly be behind closed doors for internal research purposes and not for sharing with the public.

Therefore, that has led us to diversify our search method not only from websites on the internet, but to contact people directly and ask for what was needed directly from them.

How could the result of your work be used?

Hadeel: The findings of this project can be valuable for policymakers, urban planners, and stakeholders involved in smart city development across Italy. The proposed solutions and strategies for adapting best practices can be used to inform decision-making processes and guide the implementation of successful smart city initiatives in different Italian contexts.

Yassine: The results of this project can potentially hold significant value for future researchers like ourselves and more importantly governments officials that will be engaged in the advancement of smart cities throughout Italy.

Upon completion of this study, in which sector would you like to work? You can also mention specific company names

Hadeel: I am interested in working in the smart city development sector, specifically focusing on sustainable transportation, citizen engagement, or data analysis for smart cities. Right now, I’m eager to learn from experienced professionals and contribute my skills to projects that advance smart city development in Italy.

Yassine: I’m very interested in working in IT Sector and contributing in the development of great solutions that will make a difference in the world. And upon this acquired knowledge from this study, I would be more than happy to apply my skills into smart city solutions.

What role do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hadeel: In 10 years, I see myself as a smart city consultant, data analyst specialising in smart city initiatives, or project manager for sustainable urban development projects. I am committed to leveraging my knowledge and experience gained from this project and future endeavours to contribute to creating smarter, more sustainable, and livable cities for the future.

Yassine: In 10 years, I see myself as a project Manager or a Team Leader in the IT industry specialising in Data Solutions