As resources become increasingly scarce and as the world's population becomes increasingly urbanized, cities must develop the infrastructures and technologies that will ensure a sustainable, equitable future for all the world's citizens. Cities must become, in other words, 'smart'. A smart city is one which develops and implements resource-saving, energy-efficient hard infrastructure to improve urban administration and ensure sustainable urban development, while also making effective use of Information and Communication Technologies to increase civic engagement and public participation, ensuring an inclusive, accessible city for all.
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, which is notable for its encouragement of and openness to innovation and to improving the urban experience, has recently embarked on a strategy to leverage its world-renowned high-tech ecosystem to facilitate its transformation into a smart city. A leading technology hub, Tel Aviv has developed highly advanced solutions for urban administration and, more importantly, to increase citizen engagement and public participation. Tel Aviv's smart city strategy in this way supports and advances the four objectives outlined in the City Vision: to create a city for all residents, to implement resident-oriented government, to maintain an appealing urban environment and to advance the city’s status as a financial and cultural center.
As Tel Aviv’s smart city initiatives have been developed with engagement in the urban experience and in decision-making processes as a founding principle, crowd-sourced wisdom, public participation and collaboration between residents, businesses, NGO’s and municipal administration are focal points. The DigiTel Residents Club, the key project, is a personalized web and mobile communication platform which provides residents with individually tailored, location-specific information and services. The platform facilitates a direct and holistic connection between the city and residents, from alerting residents to neighborhood road works or informing them of the nearest bicycle-sharing station to sending targeted reminders for school registration or events and offering discounts to the many cultural events taking place in the city.
Significantly, DigiTel encourages residents to proactively engage the Municipality as well: residents can locate events and activities as well as report hazards and follow up on their handling. As part of the project, municipal databases were opened to the public, followed by a competition in which residents developed mobile apps for public use based on open databases. The city also actively employs social media as a platform for involving the public in municipal decision-making and community improvement initiatives, and the iView system renders geo-spatial information readily available and easily usable for all.
Tel Aviv's smart city initiatives are all facilitated by free citywide WiFi in public areas and serve to improve municipal services, enhance residents’ quality of life and create the conditions for sustainable urban development. Above all they exemplify the city’s active, intelligent role in employing technology to heighten civic engagement and ensure a city which is accessible and responsive to all.