In December 2020, the HKSAR Government released the second edition of the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 (HKSAR Government, 2020). The first edition of the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong dates back to December 2017 and set out 76 initiatives, whereas the second edition puts forth 130 proposals that aim to enhance and expand existing city management measures and services. It is therefore timely to review Hong Kong’s developments as a smart city.
Recent developments of smart cities around the world and in China have heightened both scholarly and public attention to the issues of trust and transparency. This proposal for a special issue draws inspiration from two distinct, rarely combined literatures, on trust and the smart city:
- Trust has long been identified as an essential component of social, economic and political life. It is best understood as a generic term to describe dynamics taking place at different levels of analysis (interpersonal, social and collective), in relation to core properties (honesty, benevolence, integrity) and in association with key related concepts such as confidence, vulnerability, and community (Keele, 2007; Hetherington, 2005; Newton, 2007; Newton and Zmerli, 2011; Rousseau et al., 1998; Uslaner, 2002). In public policy analysis, the relationship between trust and transparency (especially in terms of organizational accountability) is central to recent literature in social science (Heald, 2012; Hood, 2007; Grimmelikhuijsen and Welch, 2012).
- Interest in the Smart City also mobilises a diverse, multi-disciplinary literature. The Smart City lies somewhere between a material fact and an urban narrative. The Smart City is primarily material, in the sense that it refers to precise policy programmes and infrastructure associated with the digitalization of public services. This prevailing understanding is the one, for example, that underpins the Hong Kong Government’s The Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong (Information and Technology Board, 2017), which proposed measures to build Hong Kong into a world class smart city in six sectors. The Smart City is also an urban narrative (Patterson and Renwick Moore, 1998). Smartness is a city vision, as much as description of a set of technical programmes (Cole and Payre, 2016).
The proposal is inspired by the project Trust and the Smart City, funded by Hong Kong Baptist University. From a preliminary qualitative data analysis based on scoping interviews emerge the themes of engagement, co-production, resilience, citizen-centeredness, innovation and sustainability. This polysemy reflects the broad political and scientific provenance of the concept that is now presented:
- From the perspective of the HKSAR Government, the Smart City aims to make use of innovation and technology (I&T) to address urban challenges and make recommendations for development with regard to six major areas: smart mobility, smart living, smart environment, smart people, smart government and smart economy.
- From the governance tradition, the Smart City brings forth the interest in policy instruments and joined-up, usually digital public services (Capano and Howlett, 2020; Bolivar and Meijer, 2016; Kourtit, Nijkamp and Steenbruggen, 2017). Its advocates typically celebrate the ease of manipulation of ICT and the efficiency of e.gov portals as One Stop Shops for the digital age.
- From urban studies, Smart City is a hybrid form of service delivery, inviting an interest in process (public-private partnerships), as well as substantive outcomes (Wang et al., 2018).
- The Smart City also builds on an established tradition in socio-technological studies: Big Data is the latest manifestation of this tradition (Pasquale, 2015; O’Neill, 2016).
- The Smart City is a public venture, though private actors might deliver public services. Hence the concept of public value is a useful one (Criado and Gil-Garcia, 2019), especially as it relates to co-production, engagement, public sector innovation (Lopes et al., 2019).
- Finally, comparative perspectives on Smart City performance (the numerous indexes) demonstrate the global interest in urban design and the importance of transnational benchmarks and indexes of Smartness (Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2017; IMD-SUTD, 2020).
Through linking Trust with the Smart City, the special issue is concerned with: the equity, transparency and neutrality of public policy; the perceived benefits (connectivity) and possible harm (health, data transmission) of digital technologies applied to the city; the reception of Smart City service providers (domestic, foreign, new market players, established interests); the role of regulation and government; the data security consequences of new technologies and the potential for new forms of citizen trust and engagement. These questions of trust are applied to the smart city as a form of hybrid governance, taking Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area as the focal point, while also engaging in international comparisons. There ought to be no easy assumptions relating to trust and urban governance. The issue proposes to address these issues by combining analyses rooted in specific intellectual traditions: namely, those of policy sector, transnational learning, and political philosophy. As important as these substantive dimensions of output/outcome, the project is concerned with trust in processes (of Smart government) and in the ethical underpinnings of Big Data.
We hereby issue a call for papers on any subject relating to the above. Please send an abstract of around 200 words to:
This call for papers aims at creating a Special Feature in CEFC's journal China Perspectives (https://www.cefc.com.hk/).
Abstracts should be submitted no later than 21 May 2021
Final papers should be submitted no later than 4 August 2021
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Capano, G., & Howlett, M. (2020). The Knowns and Unknowns of Policy Instrument Analysis: Policy Tools and the Current Research Agenda on Policy Mixes. SAGE Open, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019900568
Cole, A., & Payre, R. (2016). Cities as Political Objects. Edward Elgar Publishing.
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