Op-Ed

Deconfinement: a life-size test for the smart city?

At a time when half of humanity is living in confinement and the world economy is experiencing a sudden and massive halt, politicians and scientists are pondering possible ways out of this exceptional regime. The debate on deconfinement has only just begun, yet it already seems clear that our societies’ return to normal functioning can only be gradual and non-linear in the absence of a treatment or vaccine and in view of the risk of a second wave of contaminations. Whatever strategy is chosen, the Asian experiences (Korea, Singapore, China) suggest that even partial deconfinement will be structured around an inseparable “test/data/distance” triptych. This strategy raises major political, legal, cultural and even philosophical issues for democratic states. In particular, the digital dimension of deconfinement is a source of immense mistrust. This was revealed by a survey on data-sharing carried out by the Oliver Wyman Forum in the United States, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore between 21 and 27 March.

How can we create trust so that our cities can once again be themselves, i.e., switches for multiple territorial scales and places of flows? Only an unprecedented coalition of actors will make it possible to build a system of data governance that sets out the conditions for data-sharing. It is largely at the territorial and urban levels that this configuration will have to be invented: all the stakeholders of the smart city have a role to play. Indeed, both the proportionality principle and the principle of the purpose of data collection call for the implementation of highly territorialized systems, on the scale of the living area or the employment area, for example. We were looking for the smart city of the public good: perhaps COVID-19 can provide an opportunity to implement it.

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La Fabrique de la Cité is a think tank dedicated to urban foresight, created by the VINCI group, its sponsor, in 2010. La Fabrique de la Cité acts as a forum where urban stakeholders, whether French or international, collaborate to bring forth new ways of building and rebuilding cities.

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