The Smart City Ecosystem as an Innovation Model: Lessons from Montreal

The Smart City Ecosystem as an Innovation Model: Lessons from Montreal

The Smart City Ecosystem as an Innovation Model: Lessons from Montreal
Since the early 2000s, many cities around the world have undertaken initiatives to position themselves as “smart cities”. Indeed, in the era of globalization and postmodernism, the smart city concept is well recognized as a means to increase the attractiveness of cities and the quality of life of citizens (Boes et al., 2015). In their efforts to engage in this initiative, cities generally seek to promote a dynamic of innovation that drives the development of products and the delivery of services through technology. However – and this comprises the main idea of this article – what is also needed are efforts to change organizational structures so as to create a culture of innovation among the various stakeholders. Indeed, some researchers consider the emergence of innovation to be highly dependent on the type of organizational dynamics at play (Enz & Siguaw, 2003; Jones, 1996).

It appears, then, that the main challenge for smart cities today is to develop and implement models of collaboration between the different stakeholders. This challenge involves mediating between many actors, including those who are in competition against each other, in order to arrive at an organizational culture that represents the common interest as much as possible. This challenge also calls on the stakeholders of a smart city to think of new ways of collaborating.

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In Canada, Montreal’s smart city ecosystem is an example of innovation in collaboration and cooperation. In 2014, the city launched its Smart and Digital City Office (Bureau de laville intelligenteet numérique), whose mandate is to oversee Montreal’s 2015–2017 Smart and Digital City Action Plan, which was developed following consultations with various stakeholders (among them public organizations), the private sector, and citizens. However, at the midpoint in the implementation of this plan, despite the omnipresence of tourism projects in Montreal’s smart city project, few tourism stakeholders are engaged in the initiative. Thus, there is not necessarily an overlap or alignment between the “smart city” and the “smart destination”. A smart city is “a well-defined geographical area, in which high technologies such as ICT, logistic, energy production, and so on, cooperate to create benefits for citizens in terms of well-being, inclusion and participation, environmental quality, intelligent development” (Dameri, 2013). In contrast, the smart destination is one that uses technology to guarantee sustainable development of the tourist area and to improve the experience quality of visitor (Lopez de Avila, 2015). With the smart destination approach, stakeholders work together, through a integrated platform for example, to create and facilitate a real-time tourism experience (Buhalis & Amaranggana, 2014). However, in Montreal, tourism is considered as an economic activity like any other, due to which it is not considered to warrant its own sub-ecosystem. Thus, there is cause for reflection about how Montreal’s current smart cities ecosystem may be improved.

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To this end, this article pursues two objectives. First, it seeks to explain how a collaborative structure between the various stakeholders in Montreal’s smart city project can, itself, become a source of innovation, given the services it might offer or its way of utilizing resources and tools. Second, the article seeks to show that the smart city concept is not necessarily interchangeable with the smart destinations concept, insofar as the intrinsic characteristics of their respective target populations, being the citizens and the tourists, are different.

The article is structured as follows. We begin by portraying the smart city ecosystem as an innovation model applied to the tourism context. Using an exploratory methodology, this perspective forms the basis for an analysis of the profiles of the stakeholders involved in the smart city project and their roles and missions.

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