An insight into the problems that smart cities solve for their citizens
Smart cities are by their very nature built around smart ecosystems: networks of industry players and stakeholders who work together to define
and build solutions around real life problems.

The players each contribute their share of the solution either through technology or reach among the stakeholder community. The combined value of the ecosystem, expressed in revenue, cost saving, efficiency or quality of life, is larger than the sum of the players combined.

Whilst traveling and meeting clients in far corners of the world over the past few years it occurred to me that in whatever state of economic or societal development the country or region was, its challenges were more or less the same around the world: environment, urbanisation, mobility, access to work and finance.

Cities, government, academics and companies like BPC see an opportunity to bring together stakeholders of all walks of life to either initiate or support such ecosystems. In urban environments we speak of Smart City projects that can range from simple transportation linked systems to entire IoT empowered districts. What brings those parties together is part of a larger societal movement, ignited by technology innovation.

At BPC we believe in the value of ecosystems, ambitious and digitally enabled around people and culture by people in that very culture. Experience around the world has taught us that in complex multi-layered projects, most is achieved in a business process of incremental steps. Real life must be the starting point and goal, digital is the enabler, people with expertise can jointly build that bridge. That is why we asked a group of young multi-disciplined researchers to work with us and spot the projects around the world that focus on solving real life problems with digital technology. We looked at three steps in that value chain: from digital access to finance and banking to digital business and finally a digital empowered life.

We hope that will find this survey useful and inspiring and encourage you to reach out to us to start the dialogue to empower smarter cities, smarter villages and smarter people around the world.

Anatoly Loginov, Chairman & CEO BPC

All the projects we chose to include have in common that they strive to solve real life problems in a manner which could be an example for other cities in the world.
This is not a survey of the smartest cities in the world: those lists and surveys exist in large numbers and levels of depth. Our aim is to make a survey with an overview of initiatives around the world which demonstrate the diverse and creative ways in which smart city ecosystems improve the real lives of citizens.

This leads to a very different list, where there also is a place for initiatives in less digitised environments.


The concept of smart cities has been with us for many years, with the first examples of ICT-enabled and data-driven policy making first emerging in the 1970s. While the drive to bring digital technology into the heart of government has continued unabated since then, more recent advances in connected devices and IoT have accelerated the pace of change.

Driven by rapid increases in the capability (and falling unit costs) of sensors, network connectivity and data analytics technology, many major cities are either running –
or trialling – some form of IoT-enabled model to support major areas of their city management.


“Smart cities became a marketing slogan at one stage, much like Artificial Intelligence. Everybody claims they are using AI, everybody claims to be a smart city, but this is very different from what is really happening. The first common mistake in the smart city 1.0 era was to just create images of a futuristic, ‘greenfield’ city, a big bang approach to a totally new crafted concept. The fact of the matter is there a very few greenfield cities in the world. People are magnetically attracted to existing cities and go there for the services, the healthcare, for the greater economic opportunity. The second mistake was an over-emphasis on technology, forgetting that it that it was about problem solving for citizens.”


ARED group tries to bridge a gap between digital services and the African population that currently has less access to those digital services. With a tested mobile kiosk and a very ambitious growth plan, ARED is aiming high to alleviate the many challenges of micro business owners and citizens in Africa with digital tools.

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and huge challenges and we only try to solve one of them. With an explosively growing population that needs water, food, work, we are not willing to wait to move up the pile, so we went outside Africa for funding and will continue to do so. But it goes without saying that with increasing urbanisation in Africa, smart cities will be the only way to tackle those problems and we would love to be part of that.”
Being connected is taking part in society.