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Smart cities
Smart cities

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2.4 Define your city problem

An image of a boy wearing a face mask, standing on a bridge over a motorway surrounded by smog.
Figure 4 City problems

Activity 2 Exploring a problem

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Looking back at your rich picture of city challenges created in Week 2, pick one problem that interests you. Now imagine there’s a living lab in your city. You’re going to explore the problem together and co-create a solution.

  • First identify who is impacted by the problem or who might have an influence on the problem (citizens, business, city government, community group, etc.) and say briefly why they are affected or influential. You would need to work with the people who face the problem to empathise with their point of view – Stage 1 of the design thinking process.
  • Then clearly articulate the city problem in a couple of sentences from their point of view. This is Stage 2 in the design thinking process.

Capture these ideas in your Smart Cities Project Ideas Template. The purpose of the exercise is to learn the process, so don’t worry if you make some guesses about their views. You can come back to this later as you learn more about city problems.

As you work through the rest of this week, and later weeks, you’ll be tackling Stage 3 of the design thinking process, collecting ideas and exploring potential solutions to city problems. You’ll learn about smart city approaches to solving problems – including crowdsourcing citizens’ ideas, smart infrastructure, city sensing, open data, digital social innovation and hackathons – as well covering topics such as finance, privacy and security. Throughout this course you’ll develop and refine the ideas you’ve come up with into a smart cities project. To achieve this you need to develop a clear plan.

A useful tool to create a plan is the Smart Cities Project Business Model Canvas, provided at the start of the course, which is adapted from a business model canvas (Strategyzer Support, 2015) first developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and now available under creative commons. If you haven’t already downloaded this, do so now. It is available in either Smart Cities Project Business Model Canvas PDF [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   or Smart Cities Project Business Model Canvas .docx format. You’ll use this later in the course but it’s helpful to have a look at it here so that you know what it covers.