A really smart city is an inclusive city

Adelaide city centre and community accessibility as a smart city

Written by Claudia Cahalane, AbilityNet

Making our cities smarter and more inclusive will become increasingly important over the coming decades. According to the United Nations by 2050 more than 6.4 billion people will be urban — that’s nearly two-thirds of the world’s population. Moreover, the world’s population is ageing – and with age comes a higher level of ill-health, impairment and disability.

It’s clear that smart cities won’t happen overnight. Now is the time to begin the process of building integrated, tech-enabled cities, with a seamless flow between the different services provided for residents, commuters and visitors.

Prior to the launch of the Smart Cities for All toolkit last year, not-for-profits founders G3ict and World Enabled surveyed hundreds of world leaders from the public and private sectors, advocacy organisations, civil society and academia and less than half could identify a smart-city project that had any focus on accessibility.

At the time, Victor Pineda, president of World Enabled and an urban planner, called for Radical Inclusion of disabled people in Smart Cities plans:

Pineda warned that as things stood, cities we’re not going to meet the objective of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or the UN Sustainable Development Goals New Urban Agenda.

He said: “Sustainable Development Goal Number 11 — inclusive and resilient cities — we are not going to meet that goal if we don’t think about people with disabilities in this digital urban infrastructure.”

Inspiring city leaders to be inclusive

The toolkit contains a database of more than 350 apps, websites, software and other technologies that demonstrate different ways of addressing the digital divide. This is intended to inspire city leaders, as well as software developers, to come up with ideas for products.

The guide also lays out the various international standards that have already been established for digital inclusion and features a model procurement policy for government officers, which draws on global accessibility standards.

It is hoped the guide will support cities to have smarter and inclusive offerings around emergency response, employment, public safety, justice and financial services for all citizens – including the one billion people worldwide with a disability.


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