Citizen Perceptions and Support for Smart City Projects: The Case of “Smart Santander”

Citizen Perceptions and Support for Smart City Projects: The Case of “Smart Santander”

Héctor San Martín, Mª Mar García-de-los-Salmones, Ángel Herrero-Crespo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2097-0.ch007
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The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) applied to territories leads to the phenomenon of “Smart City.” The goal of a smart project is to use technology to manage all of the issues of a city (mobility, heritage, environmental, safety, and health services) in a more sustainable, livable, and efficient way, which will result in improving the citizens' quality of life. To know how the individuals perceive and evaluate these smart initiatives, we surveyed 525 citizens of Santander, a city in Spain that has developed a smart city project. As a result, we found that the citizens who are more familiar with smart cities are more likely to perceive that these types of projects have positive economic, cultural, environmental, and reputational impacts for the towns. This group of citizens also has a more positive attitude toward smart cities, assesses more favorably the brand equity of the smart project under investigation, and shows higher support for it.
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Nowadays, cities are complex systems that are characterized by massive numbers of interconnected citizens, businesses, means of transport, communication networks, services, and utilities (Neirotti, De Marco, Cagliano, Mangano, & Scorrano, 2014). The complexity of the social ecosystem in cities can bring up problems related to traffic, pollution, health, scarcity of resources, waste management, and poor infrastructure (Sujata, Saksham, Tanvi, & Shreya, 2014). These are important challenges for policy-makers. In this context, the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) applied to territories have created new opportunities to assure future viability and prosperity in metropolitan areas (Falconer & Mitchell, 2012; Secundo, Del Vecchio, Dumay, & Passiante, 2017; Lim, Kim, & Maglio, 2018), and to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a city (Neirotti et al., 2014).

In particular, the integration of ICT within a city leads to the phenomenon of a “Smart City.” Smart cities use technology -Big Data and Internet of Things- to address all of the issues of the city in a “smarter” –i.e., more sustainable, livable, and efficient– way (Sujata et al., 2014). ICT helps cities make better use of their resources (Neirotti et al., 2014) by incorporating new value-added services based on real-time data: parking availability, traffic density, or waiting time in public transportation routes, among others. Also, wireless Internet and web 2.0 allow increased interconnectivity and interactivity between public administrations, citizens, and firms (Vicini, Bellini, & Sanna, 2012). All this is leading to higher empowerment of citizens in the urban decision-making processes and, consequently, to an increased co-creation of high added-value services in the cities.

In previous research on the planning and development of communities, an important field has been the citizens’ satisfaction with the community (Sirgy & Cornwell, 2001; Nunko & Ramkisson, 2011). More concretely, this field is specifically referred to as the citizens’ evaluations of government services (Nunko & Ramkisson, 2011). Taking into account that the implementation of a smart city project aims to improve the quality of life of citizens (Vicini et al., 2012; Buhalis & Amaranggana, 2014), we consider it important to know how the individuals perceive these smart initiatives. Despite the high interest in this topic, there is a lack of studies considering this perspective. With this in mind, our study focuses on the citizens. It examines their perceptions and attitudes towards smart cities in general as well as their evaluations and support for a specific smart city project. Also, we introduce the concept of familiarity with smart cities and, subsequently, establish several research questions to examine if the citizens´ perceptions, attitudes, and support are significantly different according to their level of familiarity with smart cities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Familiarity: Knowledge and understanding that an individual has of a specific topic or phenomenon (smart city concept, in the case of this research).

Brand Equity: Added value of a brand to the individual, traditionally linked to four dimensions: brand awareness, brand associations, perceived quality, and brand loyalty.

Smart Services: Services provided using smart technologies in order to boost their quality, efficiency, and sustainability.

Support: acceptance behaviors of a specific idea, object, conduct, or phenomenon (smart city concept, in the case of this research). Includes encouraging the policymakers to develop and promote the project, or participating in the project with new ideas.

Smart City: City in which smart technologies and services are implemented to improve the efficiency of public services and the quality of life of citizens.

Attitudes: Overall predisposition, favorable or unfavorable, towards a specific idea, object, conduct, or phenomenon (smart city concept, in the case of this research).

Smart Technology: Information and communication technologies used to improve the management of territories and businesses. Include, big data, cloud services, Internet of Things, end-user Internet service system, artificial intelligence, among others.

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