Week 3: Data and the smart city: Critical perspectives

The case study being used to demonstrate Mosco’s perspectives on ‘smart cities’ was found in a Guardian article entitled “Inside Greece’s first smart city” and features the small Greek city of Trikala.

There were many technological additions to the city to make it “smart”: more efficient, accessible and economically beneficial for residents and the nation at large.

The first example is the e-complaint system where residents use an application or an online portal to tell the council about issues facing the city: for example, an overflowing bin or a broken streetlamp. Problems such as these were resolved in an average of eight days as opposed to a month, and the whole process of requesting services from the council was a lot more transparent. The many it was considered a success.

Trikala as a smart city has the aspects of the smart city as a ‘platform’ as illustrated by Mosco (2019: 34). When applied to the council, and by extension the way the city operates, it has all the features of an online platform: a brand, a business, an interface that can be engaged with and where citizens can access a service. The council has become in itself “a platform located in physical space that meets the needs of citizens” (2019: 35).

In many ways it contradicts what Cardullo, Di Feliciantonio, and Kitchin (2019) explore as the ethical and social implications of smart cities, and how smart cities borne into a neo-liberal political environment it can be a detriment to those from diverse or disadvantaged social backgrounds (i.e. not white, male, middle-class and tech savvy). The example of Trikala as a smart city shows great benefit for citizens which is another of Mosco’s is key characteristics of smart cities. The elderly in the city, although reluctant at first, now have access to smart housing which monitors their health, and children now have opportunities to work in the tech in the future which is optimistic for Greece’s struggling economy. Mosco believes that serving the best interests of citizens is what makes a city smart, as opposed to new technology for the sake of business expansion. (2019: 38)

However even the Trikala example is problematic as its funding includes private companies Sieben and Parkguru as well as offering up itself as a test site for local tech companies. Trikala, as an example, draws the fine line between having active, engaged citizens (Cardullo, Di Feliciantonio, Kitchin 2019:11) to “re-orientation of citizenship towards market principles.” (2019: 13).


Cardullo, P. & Di Feliciantonio, C. & Kitchin, R. 2019. ‘Citizenship, Justice and the Right to the Smart City’ in The Programmable City Issue 41, October 2018.

Mosco, V. 2019. ‘How to Think about Smart Cities’ The Smart City in a Digital World Bingley, Emerald Publishing.

Rainey, V. ‘Inside Greece’s first smart city: ‘Now you don’t need to know a politician to get something done’’ The Guardian, 4th September 2018 <https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/sep/04/trikala-greece-first-smart-city-dont-need-to-know-a-politician-to-get-something-done> accessed 17/02/2020.




2 thoughts on “Week 3: Data and the smart city: Critical perspectives

  1. Hi Meg – thank you for another very interesting blog post. You’ve highlighted some excellent, socially responsible uses for smart city technology like the smart housing monitoring elderly residents’ health. However, your view on funding from private companies being problematic left me wondering why is that problematic.

    I recently called for an ambulance and I was surprised to see that the ambulance and the paramedics’ uniforms were branded “Bristol Ambulance” because we weren’t near Bristol. The paramedics explained that they were NHS staff, but their uniforms, the ambulance and all the equipment was hired by the NHS on a daily rate from a private company called Bristol Ambulance. They thought this was an excellent arrangement because it enabled them to have a beautifully maintained ambulance, fully kitted out with everything they needed.

    I was surprised to find out about this arrangement, but I could not see it as problematic because the private company did not detract from the public service, and as far as I could see no one was worse off. I think this is an example of how private and public sectors will increasingly work together, to serve public interests. As smart cities rely on technology developed and manufactured by private companies, I think the question isn’t whether private companies are involved but how is that relationship managed.

    • Hi Miriam

      Having a private company involved in publicly funded services is a big grey area, and one I did not fully explore in my blog. What I would question is, when these private companies get involved in public service – everything from buses to hospitals to schools – how much of what they are doing prioritises their bottom line? Acting in the public interest is one of their goals, but no company is going to even think about investing anything in these services if it were not for monetary gain, and that will influence the service they provide and for whom they provide it for.

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