By Sharad KC

The United Nations predicts the number of city dwellers to reach 6.3 billion by 2050. The growth in number as well as sizes of cities has been unprecedented and along with it comes the problem of making cities efficient, well-managed, and livable. One way of addressing these goals is the vast amount of data produced by cities themselves. There is a real buzz among city planners to use this data to solve various problems in and around their city. This might just be the beginning of smarter cities.

In this debate edition of The Economist, Mr. Wladawsky-Berger argues that for smart cities to happen, one needs both the top-down and the bottom-up approach. He says that the internet, the web, and Linux have succeeded because they managed to carefully balance the two. In addition, the idea of making cities smarter hugely depends upon the promise of big data. A simple example of the mix between the top-down and bottom-up approaches is that city governments can provide data and entrepreneurs and innovators can use that data to find solutions to make cities smarter.

Although there is much hype about making cities smarter with data, in reality there hasn’t been much progress. Some of the areas where it has gained pace is that of public transportation and making roads an efficient way of traveling, and location services such as Foursquare. There is much work to be done in utilizing the vast amount of data created by cities if we are to make them better, but along with the growth of cities and technology, it is only a matter of time before we see real progress in making our cities smarter. It’s the only way for cities to evolve.