Advancing Performance Measurement of Smart City: Compare China and the United States

Advancing Performance Measurement of Smart City: Compare China and the United States

Jian-Chuan Zhang (Academy of Public Policy, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China) and Yu-Che Chen (School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijpada.2015100102
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Smart city initiatives are thriving around the world. However, measuring the performance of a smart city becomes a critical challenge partially due to the lack of agreement on the concept and on the components that define a city as being “smart.” The primary purpose of this study is to propose a scheme of performance measurement on smart city, based on the understanding of smart city as an ICT-enabled complex governance system in the urban context. The measurement scheme is composed of five factors: institution, actors, interactions among the actors, ICT enactment, and outcomes. Each factor is further developed into a series of indicators. As a tentative effort, this study further utilizes the proposed scheme to make a brief comparison between two existing performance measurement frameworks in the United States and China. The comparison demonstrates the power of the set of measures in gauging and guiding the practice. Meanwhile, the authors recognize that the scheme should be understood as heuristics instead of a road map, as smart city is still an emergent phenomenon.
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Smart City: Ict-Enabled Urban Governance System

A variety of different working definitions of a smart city has been proposed (Chourabi et al., 2012). Although the lack of a widely accepted definition of a concept is not unusual in social science, this status seems to be especially prominent in smart city. This can be explained by the fact that it is still an emerging research subject, but the more important reason may be attributed to its complexity. On one hand, urban governance can be thought of as a sub-system of a broader governance system. On the other hand, city governance itself includes a number of sub-systems such as transportation, housing, electronic power grid, and garbage collection, just to name a few. These systems are intertwined with each other, consisting of a system of systems (Dirks & Keeling, 2009).

The concept of smart city is also strongly correlated with the utilization of information and communication technology (Hollands, 2008). It is hard to call a city featured by a good number of resource-intensive industries a “smart” one. For most observers, a city becomes smart when it transforms towards an information-based society with much more resource-efficient knowledge industries, which supports sustainable development (Deakin, 2010; Vasseur, 2010). ICT exploitation in the public sector has long been a research subject of e-government studies. E-government literature has identified the ICT enactment framework for a better understanding of ICT-enabled governance. Put simply, enactment means that the role of ICT must be considered through the interplay between technologies themselves and the institutional background in which they are embedded (Fountain, 2001).

As a consequence, there seems to be a minimum consensus on the concept of smart city in the literature; that is, smart city can be conceptualized as an ICT-enabled urban governance system. The conceptualization also serves as the definition of a smart city adopted by this study. This definition encapsulates both the context (an urban setting) and the technological basis (various ICTs). Another critical aspect of this definition is the meaning of governance. The term often causes ambiguity as it is also marked by a good number of different understandings (Lynn et al., 2001). Despite the controversy, governance is generally considered as a multistakeholder process in contrast to a government-centric process. In addition, inter-sector collaboration and citizen participation are required to harmonize and coordinate the activities of multiple stakeholders. Collaboration and citizen participation are also productive in resolving complex problems that any single unit is not capable of handling. Finally, it is through governance that a city can produce integrated public services, which contrast with fragmented services (Chen & Hsieh, 2009; Dawes, 2008; Scholl et al., 2009; Ingram et al., 2009). As a whole, smartness implies a soft transformation from an industrial society heavily relying on resource consumption, towards a much more resource-efficient information society that supports sustainable growth (Deakin, 2010).

Bearing in mind the thinking mentioned above, Chen (2013) proposes a more refined conceptual model for a better understanding of this ICT-enabled complex governance system in the urban context. The model is drawn from Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework developed by Ostrom and her colleagues (Ostrom, 2010) and the complex adaptive system (CAS) perspective articulated by Rhodes et al (2011). A careful comparison helps identify main elements and processes common to these two frameworks. Relying on the shared findings, Chen identifies a number of linkages that connect institutions (including rules and norms), players (participants), interactions, ICT enactment, and outcomes. An adapted version of all these elements and their interplays are illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

ICT-enabled complex urban governance system


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