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Social Issues in the Smart City Era and Tasks of the Seoul Metropolitan Government

Miree ByunㆍMook-Han KimㆍChang YiㆍMinjin Park

Seoul is in the process of shifting to a smart city with citizen participation through a combination of new changes in technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of things, etc., and city services

The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which emerged as a new concept at the World Economic Forum, is a term describing current technological changes and social changes that will result from them. Furthermore, new technological changes such as AI, big data, IoT, etc., are currently being combined with urban services, driving a rapid shift to smart cities. Smart cities are defined in various ways, so the following definition is presented based on common criteria: ‘urban planning or an urban vision that aims to improve city systems by applying the latest information and communication technology (ICT) such as IoT, AI, big data, etc. to urban spaces and to enhance the quality of life and happiness of the people’. Smart cities are urban systems that respond intelligently and efficiently to a variety of demands. Changes in a city’s appearance due to technological advances affect more than just the technology and industry of that city. Such changes are expected to have an impact on infrastructure as a whole, including labor, education, occupation, and so on, which will in turn lead to significant changes in the daily lives of citizens.
Current smart city projects, in contrast to U-City programs, emphasize various forms of ‘citizen’ and ‘participation’. In these projects, citizens share their ideas for creating a smart city and the importance of establishing a vision and strategy with citizen input, tailored to the environment of each city is emphasized. Europe is currently promoting the “Smart Citizen Project”, which emphasizes that citizens should participate as key actors in policy-making based on utilizing the high-quality technical infrastructure of the city.

We must take notice of changes in the lives and social values ​​of citizens in the process of building a smart city in Seoul

The social values ​​and issues of a smart city are closely intertwined with the daily lives of its citizens. The use of instant messaging is increasing among Seoul citizens, and online communication in the form of social media has become an integral part of their daily lives. However, use of these services vary by generation; younger generations frequently share their experiences on online-oriented networks, while older generations still make most of their connections offline. Furthermore, Seoul citizens have been found to participate in political processes through various online channels, including Oasis of 10 Million Imagination, mVoting, Petition Seoul, and Democracy Seoul.
A new engagement model based on citizen participation through the medium of diverse participatory networks has emerged, which is distinctly different from previous engagement models. Offline participation is also increasing among citizens. From 2012 to the present, the “Seoul Policy Fair” has been organizing offline policy communication events on a regular basis. This policy fair provides opportunities for citizens to actualize direct democracy as they participate in developing their own agendas and vote for them.

For citizens, concerns about the safety of the city, environment, transportation, industrial economic services, and increasing inequality in the future coexist with expectations of increased convenience 

In a survey of Seoul citizens that included future generations, we examined their opinion on the demand for services and urban changes in smart cities. Over half of the respondents (57.8%) reported being aware of the concept of smart cities, but there were significant discrepancies in their awareness of smart cities according to educational background, occupation, and information competency level. While respondents did not expect a transition to a smart city to solve urban issues afflicting Seoul (industrial economy, environment, information security, regeneration, participatory communication, etc.), they anticipate further development in the following service areas. The perceived importance of each service area was rated as follows: safety (5.86 points), environment (5.75 points), traffic (5.52 points), industrial economy (5.47 points), and welfare and health (5.33 points). The most important factors to consider when building a smart city in Seoul and implementing smart city services are as follows: ‘to establish technology and systems such as standardization (52.8%)’, ‘security related aspects (43.6%)’, ‘use of advanced technology (38.5%)’, and ‘participation of Seoul citizens (37.7%)’.
There is a positive outlook that smart cities will help create societies that embrace diversity and ensure the happiness of their citizens. On the other hand, there is also a negative viewpoint that unjustness and polarization will deepen due to technological gaps, leading to a more unhappy society. Seoul citizens believe that social gaps and unjustness will continue to be prominent aspects of Seoul as a future smart city, as they are today. They believe that the city itself will transition into a smart society via the use of advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, but that it will also become a multifaceted society in which the current state of growth without employment has deepened.

It is necessary to establish a system for sharing values and facilitating participatory cooperation to ensure a smooth transition to a smart city

The transition to smart cities should be understood as a new form of urbanization that captures the value of city development. Future generations are seeking ways to improve their quality of life in smart cities; at the same time, they are also concerned about issues related to inequality. Furthermore, the future generation, also referred to as the “Me” generation, expects their quality of life to improve with the transition to smart cities, but they exhibit low levels of participation. Further, they expect smart cities to increase technological convenience (traffic, cultural tourism, etc.). Although the future generation and the older generation display differing levels of concern regarding smart cities, the results show that overall, they share a common concern about inequality. In addition, concerns about this disparity diverge according to the degree of people’s smart capability and smart city recognition. 
Seoul must recognize the gravity of sharing its vision of the type of smart city it strives to be with its citizens. In other words, proposing a vision and values that are shared with citizens and policy-makers should be a precondition for a smart city. In order to promote the move towards a smart city, Seoul should actively present its vision and the values of the type of city it aims to be, which reflect the social values ​​of its citizens. Currently, various smart cities present their visions and values, which are reflected in their names such as inclusion cities and cities with a high quality of life.
Seoul must also propose a variety of citizen participatory cooperation models for its transition to a smart city, share goal-oriented activities, and actively suggest and share various experiments (living labs, etc.) to create positive changes in the daily lives of its citizens. When proposing this model of citizen participation, it is important that it is a ‘representative, impartial, balanced participation model’. In addition, it is necessary to establish governance across various levels in order to develop a mechanism in which citizens and stakeholders can participate. To increase understanding of the changes in society brought on by this transition, public debate must be encouraged. 

Policy interventions are needed to resolve multidimensional inequalities in smart cities 

Active policy intervention is needed to mitigate multidimensional inequalities in smart cities. A smart city in which citizen-centered information technology is applied, risks becoming a city that only serves those equipped with information competency as opposed to a ‘city for all’. Smart cities need to identify new social issues that will exist in a more mature society, including the types of inequalities and gaps that differ from those that exist today. Instances of inequality brought on by smart cities are likely to occur across several dimensions. Specifically, spatial inequalities and gaps are likely to occur, and existing inequalities due to individual digital capabilities may deepen.
Problems of equal development, issues of learning skills gaps, and obstacles of job creation and destruction due to new technologies are a few examples. Therefore, investigations and evaluations of inequality issues in smart cities should continue to be conducted. Future cities should aim to be smart cities; however, this should be a well-conceptualized process rather than a simple final goal. If this process is not well-executed, smart cities will just be another type of technology-driven city.