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Rise of the Smartivist: The Importance of Smart Citizens for Smart Cities
Thomas Mueller25. February 20212 min read

Rise of the Smartivist: The Importance of Citizens for Smart Cities

The human element is something that has been largely neglected in the first generations of smart cities around the globe. Increasingly, cities recognize the importance of citizens and other actors inside the city or community for the creation of solutions tailored to the needs of their residents and visitors. Learn more about the importance of smart citizens.

The Importance of Smart Citizens for Creating Smarter Cities

The ultimate goal of all smart city efforts and aspirations is to increase the quality of life and to ensure (economic) prosperity for all. The residents of a city or community play a crucial role in creating and implementing the right processes and solutions. Technology and data are key enablers, but without the smartness of people, proper engagement will not be achieved and smart city projects fail. Many cities (and companies) have also learned this lesson and turned their strategies 180 degrees. A review of the smart city concept is featured in our article Smart City Evolution: A Review of Becoming a Smarter City.

However, the human element is not only about individuals leveraging information for the creation of a human-centric smart municipality. It is about the empowerment of citizens to contribute as “smart citizens” to the creation of smart cities or smart communities. At bee smart city we are the first to publicly introduce the term “smartivist” for this class of citizens, dating back to research undertaken from 2014-2016 on smart cities by the founders of bee smart city GmbH.

What we see in many cities is the “rise of the smartivist”. This type of citizen can be defined as “an individual who steps forward to actively support the process of creating a better place voluntarily”. He or she supports the creation of smarter cities as a single expert or by establishing initiatives (e.g. loose project consortiums, new legal entities such as non-profit organizations, and associations) to address specific urban, societal or municipal challenges.

At bee smart city it is our conviction, that the collective intelligence and power of smart citizens, who are often experts in their fields and/or highly motivated citizens (“local champions”) who possess a strong identification with the city or community they live in (“local pride”) is something that can massively accelerate efforts to create smarter and better places. The high degree of commitment and the quality of contributions that this class of citizens brings to the table is something that needs to be encouraged, nurtured and rewarded.

Returning to the current evolutionary phase of creating smarter municipalities, it is the engagement of citizens that enables a city or community to tap into collective intelligence and take on a human-centric approach to the creation of a truly smart city for the next generation.

Therefore, we call for a new paradigm in the development of smart municipalities. You can find our thoughts in the article Redefining the Smart City Concept: A New Smart City Definition.


Thomas Mueller

Thomas Müller is Managing Partner at bee smart city. With more than 15 years of public sector experience, he is an expert on smart city strategy and projects.