Cybercities are cities that leverage modern information technology to better deliver services to their residents. The concept of a cybercity can be traced to the late 1990s. The proliferation of the Internet from the early 1990s opened the way for the integration of this modern form of information and communication technology to other areas of socioeconomic life. The progressive penetration of the Internet into the general society resulted in the adoption of new approaches of doing things by incorporating modern information and communication technology, including within-city management.
The term cybercity is loaded with debatable interpretations. However, any city that systematically integrates innovative modern information technology in its overall functionality to more efficiently and optimally manage its critical infrastructure would be a cybercity. Infrastructure such as energy generation and delivery; transportation system, including railways, roads, waterways, airports, water supply, low carbon emission technologies, waste removal and management, and government services; and the digital security afforded this infrastructure. The ensuing environment is a well-organized clean city with smart and industrious people, a vibrant economy, an accountable e-government, and an overall conducive environment favoring mobility and good living for its residents. This entry discusses the characteristics and benefits of cybercities as well as the challenges, including challenges for securities and privacy, associated with cybercities.
In the true sense of the term, one would envisage that a cybercity is built with all its integrated features from scratch. In reality, this is a contemplation for future cities, although existing cities are adapting their existing infrastructures by integrating them with modern information and technology capabilities. Despite the enormous challenges involved in adapting existing cities to becoming cybercities, many cities beginning in the early 2000s have made significant strides in this regard and have earned the name cybercities.
These cities manifest a combined adequacy in intellectual capabilities and well-resourced institutions and infrastructures that are properly coordinated in an Internet-sustained grid developed specifically to make the supply and demand for utilities, products, and services more efficient for residents and tourists visiting the cities. The overall expectation is to create a symbiotic environment wherein the city’s infrastructure and inhabitants coexist in an overall efficient way with mitigated sense of expectation of the unknown.
Generally, the elements of a cybercity would include the technology infrastructure, the different public and private institutions within the city, and the general population harnessing to their benefit the potentials offered by the city. To this end, the quality and efficiency of the information communication technology network and delivery are cardinal. This serves as the foundation for the proper organization of knowledge and the generation of intellectual capital needed for the effective management of both private and government affairs in the city. It also feeds into the capacity for constant innovation in the different aspects of city activities especially with regard to security challenges emanating from exposure of critical infrastructure grids to bad actors.
They are characterized by many automated services connected to the Internet that have greatly made the delivery of services more efficient and in a timely manner. Some of these services include streamlining waste in public transportation through ride-sharing providers, thereby reducing traffic congestion and environmental pollution from carbon monoxide. Other innovative strategies are employed with regard to the removal and recycling of solid waste to maintain an ecologically friendly city. There is also the provision of ample green spaces such as parks in different parts of the cities for recreational purposes and at the same time requirement of environmentally friendly construction materials for new building projects.
Also, many services like water delivery, power supply, and solid waste removal are remotely monitored through sensors installed at various points around the city that would signal for immediate response in the event of an anomaly. Furthermore, citizens are able to remotely participate in the governance of their city by electronically submitting their concerns via government apps and portals. This citizen participation is equally supplemented by closed-circuit television cameras installed in busy areas of the city and around critical infrastructure and are remotely monitored, being part of the security component of the cybercities.
The concept of cybercities has also come with a significant downside. With most of the cities’ infrastructure and activities linked to the Internet, any interruption in either power supply or physical accident affecting the network can significantly lead to the disruption of many city activities. This could engender substantial and debilitating losses at various levels in terms of data, money, and resources for the government, organizations, and individual citizens. Also, cybercities are exposed to enormous vulnerabilities, including hacking of systems, resulting in the theft of vital information from individuals and organizations or data for nefarious use or for ransom. To this end, it becomes very concerning when individual privacy is compromised in several routine activities of urban life, including the use of city cameras and scanners for vehicle license plates for municipal surveillance and/or crime control.
The insecurities in the cyberworld remain common sources of concern as the phenomenon of cybercities continues to capture the imagination of modern city planners. Inasmuch as any security breach poses potential devastating losses to the city, its infrastructure, and inhabitants, there is no reneging on the development of cybercities. This is because investing in innovative technologies over time substantially reduces the overall cost of running the city, while delivering efficient and timely services to all residents at the same time, providing a conducive environment for city activities.
Alaba Oludare and Jude Lenjo Jokwi
See also Closed-Circuit Television ; Cybersecurity Legislation ; E-Government ; Municipal Surveillance
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