Smart Cities Built by Smart People: How to Build Smart Cities Using a Contextual Participatory Approach?

Posted: 2 Jul 2019

Date Written: March 16, 2018


Objectives: This article argues that unless we understand the context in which we aim to build smart cities, we may fail to develop smart cities that are workable and sustainable.

Prior work: there is a wealthy body of knowledge on the why, what and how of smart cities, however they do not address the actual needs of the citizens of every city. To make the smart cities solution frameworks work in different cities, we need to tailor these frameworks to the actual needs and constraints of the cities.

Approach: To address this gap, this article proposes a contextual participatory approach and demonstrates how to use this approach to conduct smart city projects that address real-life problems and generate workable and sustainable solutions. This study explains why one size smart solution does not fit all cities’ problems and delivers a prompt guideline on how to uncover the actual needs of a city and to deliver feasible solutions that make the city smart(er).

Results: To build smart cities we need to conceptualize the why, what, and how of smart city considering the actual needs of the citizens in a participatory manner. To get the citizens engaged in the building process of the smart city we need to get them in some real-life situations then expose them to well-constructed questions.

Implications: this approach can be of value to researchers and practitioners who are seeking insights on the concept and practice of smart cities regardless of where they live. If employed correctly, this approach promises results, i.e. smarter cities.

Value: It generates insightful and practical knowledge on the actual needs of the citizens and the workable and sustainable solutions. The smart cities built by this approach will bring more wealth, ease and happiness to the life of the citizens.

Keywords: contextual participatory approach, conceptualization of smart cities, "why, what, and how" of smart cities

JEL Classification: O35

Suggested Citation

Nazari, Maryam, Smart Cities Built by Smart People: How to Build Smart Cities Using a Contextual Participatory Approach? (March 16, 2018). Available at SSRN:

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