Opinion

The road to a smarter city

For a city to be considered an intelligent city, it must use resources efficiently, which results in cost and energy saving, improved service delivery, better quality of life and a reduced environmental footprint. All of this should be connected through information and communication technologies.

In a global context, Prishtina is not a smart city. Despite Mayor Shpend Ahmeti’s five-month-old government, his predecessor, Isa Mustafa, left little in the way of innovation. For one, citizens had a hard time accessing basic information, such a the requirements for obtaining a birth certificate, let alone other services like construction permits or even municipal investments. However this changed, mainly since a couple of days ago the new government of Prishtina, launched a new digital service that gives citizens the ability to apply for different documents online and have them shipped to their address.

While smart cities talk about carbon reduction, transportation and land-use planning, Prishtina doesn’t even manage to have a bike lane. Not long ago a cyclist died after being struck by a car traveling more than 120 kilometers per hour in Germia park, a place where people try to escape the busy, polluted city life.

Even though the traffic lights have a “smart” system that is supposed to actively govern signal times based on real-time conditions, it has never managed to show results. On top of that, thanks to a countdown system and a unsynchronised intersections, drivers barrel through lights like madmen. It’s common to see two or even three cars go through a red light.

A couple of months ago, the previous government, during elections presented the centre for real-time monitoring of intersections and traffic lights. If that were fully applied, then the police and fire departments could also be part of it and monitor drivers who do not obey the law, monitor traffic blockages or accidents, and respond way faster. It’s a completed investment, but will take time and effort to make it operational. Establishing a team of engineers together with the University of Prishtina to study and synchronise the traffic lights, would also bring benefits to the city, through cutting commute and lowering environment and health impact.

The public transportation system is slated change by the fall. Hopes are high that there will be new busses with low carbon emissions and modern ways of ticketing and transportation. There might be a slight chance that citizens might have an app on their smartphone that would show where the next bus is and when it will arrive. Maybe even there will be bus stations that will serve as solar-charging stations. There is a route from Jagodina to Belgrade, which offers free-to-use public solar charger stations for smartphones, tablets and multimedia devices. Close to them, interactive maps of points of interest in the city could be placed, and charge through solar-energy. To some this might sound like fantasy, but in reality this is a simple and not costly solution, which would make for a better life for the capital’s more than 200,000 residents.

The public transportation is connected to the free public parking spots. In the current situation, there are plenty of sidewalks used as parking spots and there is no real functional system of public parking spaces, however if applicable then this would be a great source of income for the municipality, which could be invested back again in the public system and the environment. Above all, solutions like this make the life of the citizen better and safer, since the results would be less cars in the traffic, less pollution and more public transportation.

In the end it comes down to the engaged citizen, since a city is built to make their lives come together to create wealth, culture and more people, and it should be an active government and infrastructure that supports this, not a passive one.

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23 May 2014 - 09:03

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