Are Smart Cities Improving Inclusive Space for Children?
Information and technology systems of smart cities are making decision-making and management of urban environment high efficiency. Cities equipped with sensors, actuators and digital technology could not only enhance the safety of urban space, but also create a playable world digitally for inhabitants. Various smart playful installations are added into public space, for instance, smart street furniture and immersive digital installations inviting people to interact or relax. However, the gestures of children are not reflected in these installations which are catering the interest of adults. They are created with adult thoughts of playfulness and located in which adult prefer to gather (Nijholt, 2019). Moreover, some smart playful environments only provide access to people who has ability to use smart technology, which do not belong to children.
Child-friendly city focuses on improving the quality of urban space that encourages children’s physical activities, play opportunities, independent opportunities and social interaction. Nevertheless, there seems to be lack of resonance of the ideas of child friendly urban planning and ongoing digital development when technology has gradually changed the needs and behaviors of children in terms of practicing and experiencing public space. In addition, spatial improvements that both ideas of child- friendly city and smart city are looking for still seem to be dominated by social perceptions and adult perspectives, for instance, concerns about stranger danger and road safety. The voices of children in design and management of urban environments are overlooked. This constraint could reduce the connections between daily life of children and perceiving of public space (Van der Graaf, 2020). Meanwhile, smart technology has significantly increased the time that children spend on digital activities. However, how digital interventions for children and community, such as ICTs (information and communications technologies), affect children’s interaction with cities has not been empirically investigated (Yin et al., 2022).
To achieve visions of child-friendly city and smart city, the needs and voices of children must be considered in the place-making process, which is essential to define a clear framework of city management. Decision making should be grounded in the engagement of multiple stakeholders and data-based trajectory to ensure children and communities can be involved in the changes of environments and urban policies. This ‘right-based’ approach could be an important role in promoting inclusiveness of urban space for children.
Nijholt, A. (2019). Playable cities for children? Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, 774, 14-20. https://doi-org.libproxy.ncl.ac.uk/10.1007/978-3-319-94944-4_2
Van der Graaf, S. (2020). The right to the city in the platform: Child-friendly city and smart city premises in contention age. Information (Basel), 11(6), 285. DOI: 10.3390/info11060285
Yin, S., Kasrinan, D. & Wesemael, P. (2022). Children and urban green infrastructure in the digital age: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(10), 5906. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19105906