Countries in the Middle East must understand what smart city success looks like and get involved in shaping emerging standards if they are to lead future smart developments.

Speaking  at MEED’s Smart Cities event today, Hazem Galal, partner, cities and local government sector global leader at consultancy PwC, said regional governments are not involved in setting standards for smart cities and should be if they are to shape standards used globally.

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Hazem Galal, PWC

Currently, International Organisation for Standardisation certification is being developed on smart city infrastructure, but it has no Middle East representation at government level. “In this part of the world we need to be more proactive in settings the standards…..otherwise we are going to have to take whatever is handed down to us,” he said.

Galal outlined three types of smart city:

  1. Greenfield, where new infrastructure is being built, such as in Masdar in Abu Dhabi.
  2. The regeneration of an existing area of a city that has been abandoned over time, which presents different challenges to a greenfield build.
  3. The retrofit of existing, aging infrastructure within a city that has not kept up with the demands of those living in the area. This is happening in many parts of Europe.

Any projects around smart cities need to identify and engage the key stakeholders, he said. This includes private sector participation, government support and action, empowering citizens to make informed decisions that “provide a healthy, secure environment” for people to live in, as well as the technology that underpins the initiative and ensuring that it fits with the environment.

However, Galal said many smart city initiatives are done in isolation. Integrating those silos can be difficult, he said. “In many cities, retrofits are being done in an isolated way,” he said. Smart city initiatives must have key performance indicators for what success looks like, he said.