Research studies

The concepts of the smart city and the participatory and sustainable city

Les concepts de la ville intelligente et de la ville participative et durable


Prepared by the researcher  :  Dr OUAZIZ ALI Researcher at the Laboratory of Systems Analysis, Information Processing and Industrial Management, Higher School of Technology in Salé, Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco

Democratic Arab Center

Journal of Urban and Territorial Planning : Ninth Issue – September 2021

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN (Online) 2698-6159
ISSN   (Print)  2699-2604 
Journal of Urban and Territorial Planning

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Our research was established with the aim of appreciating the selected aspect of the smart city concepts that have become a need of modern society. However, in order to create a smart city, one has to understand the city as a complex environment, of which the concepts of intelligence and sustainability are interconnected elements. This article discusses the interconnected concepts of the smart city and the participatory city and presents systems that are common to both, equal concepts. Our own experiences and communication with elected officials and managers responsible for the development of the Moroccan City, resulted in definitions, describing both the concepts and each of the layers of the system, which are presented. The overview has been visualized by a structure for the concepts and their systems, where the reader can see their relationships.

The main objective of this article is to cover the fundamental concepts of the smart city and the participatory city, their private lives and assets as well as recent developments in research related to cities of the future.


Notre recherche a été établie dans l’objectif est d’apprécier l’aspect sélectionné des concepts des villes intelligentes qui sont devenues un besoin de la société moderne. Cependant, pour créerune ville intelligente, il faut comprendre la ville comme un environnement complexe, dont les concepts d’intelligence et de durabilité sont des éléments interconnectés. Cet article traite des concepts interconnectés de ville intelligente et de ville participative et présente des systèmes communs aux deux, concepts égaux. Nos propres expériences et la communication avec les élus et les cadres responsables du développement de la ville marocaine ont abouti à des définitions, décrivant à la fois les concepts et chacune des couches du système, qui sont présentées. La vue d’ensemble a été visualisée par une structure pour les concepts et leurs systèmes, où le lecteur peut voir leurs relations. Cependant, le concept de ville intelligente est toujours en évolution et n’est pas intégré dans le monde entier en raison d’obstacles technologiques, économiques et gouvernants.

Par conséquent, l’objectif principal de cet article est de couvrir les concepts fondamentaux de la ville intelligente et la ville participative, leurs vies privées et leurs atouts ainsi que les récents développements de la recherche liée à la ville de demain.


The identical conception of the smart city is found, of course, in all the efficient approaches, in which the decision of the actors of a city or a territory must be initiated from a policy of transformation of their city or their territory. Into an intelligent entity. Becoming a smart city is a vital goal for all modern cities. Today in the world there are already many cities that have succeeded in becoming, but a common understanding of what it means to be a smart city, with its systems and characteristics, is still not well determined. This article will describe the structure and relationships of the concepts of the smart city and participatory city as we understand them, with a brief explanation of each structural level and the division of teachings, define the concepts and finally we will summarize the necessary characteristics of each system.

New Concepts of the Smart City

The widely accepted concept is that adopted by the International Telecommunication Union in Budapest between October 12 and 15, 2015, during the international telecommunication conference, the speakers agreed on the following definition: “A smart city and sustainable is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) and other means to improve the quality of life, the efficiency of urban operations and services and competitiveness while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect for economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects.” (ITU Telecom World, 12–15, October 2015.)

Cities must be agglomerations of promotion and innovation. But there is no definition of smart cities can vary from nation to nation or even from city to city  (Ramaprasad, Sánchez-ortiz, & A.Syn, 2017). This is why many institutions, researchers and experts have proposed different definitions of smart cities, namely:

  • The British Standards Institution which defined the smart city as “the effective integration of various systems (physical, digital and human) into the built environment that provides a sustainable, affluent and inclusive future for its citizens (Institution British Standards, 2014)»;
  • Bhowmick et al, defined the smart city in their guide as “A city which uses its available resources for the benefit of its citizens by balancing its needs (ie social, commercial and environmental)” (Bhowmick & et al, 2012) ;
  • Giffinger& al, describe the smart city as “It is efficient in terms of foresight by six characteristics (namely the economy, people, governance, mobility, environment, and life), built as an intelligent combination for smart citizens”(Giffinger & al, 2007) ;
  • Smart Cities Council India has defined the smart city as “It uses information and (T.I.C) in order to improve the citizen’s quality of life, his ability to work and his sustainability.(India Smart Cities Council, 2016);
  • Office of Scientifi c and Technical Information of the United States has defined a smart city as “a city that monitors and integrates the conditions of all its critical infrastructure for better optimization of its resources, to plan its preventive measures and control everything, while maximizing Services to citizens”.

Although most of these definitions describe a smart city in terms of advancements in technology, mobility, smart governance, quality of life and sustainability  (Ramaprasad, Sánchez-ortiz, & A.Syn, 2017), there is a separation with what citizens expect from the means of the smart city. In addition, a smart city is a multidisciplinary concept which must take into account all its components and all its aspects (Giffinger & al, 2007). In addition, the concept of the city should not revolve around a particular mission and therefore should be based on certain visions and missions and characteristics that can be used for daily assessment (Cavada, Hunt, D.V.L., & Rogers C.D.F., 2014).

Therefore, a smart city must take into account the available resources as a constraint and should integrate new technologies to solve urban problems with the objective of urban sustainability. In addition, a smart city system that works on different components (as shownin Figure 1) must be intelligently interconnected for operations, control and evaluation.

Figure 1: Composantes de la ville intelligente (Giffinger & al, 2007)

The concept of the « Smart City » is likely to provide a relevant response to the challenges facing cities. But it appears from the literature in several places that the design of the Smart City is still confused. This is linked to the lack of knowledge and experience on how to actually design and run a Smart City initiative as a whole and avoid isolated project.

Features and Components

The smart city or (Smart City) and the participatory-sustainable city is characterized by the intersection of different approaches of human and social sciences, but also by policies and techniques of urban planning and in addition the intervention of researchers for the interpretation and innovation of modern governance admitting the intelligibility of the city at the spatial, social and economic level under the various international consequences and the effects of digital transformation (Ghorra-Gobin, 2019). The rapid development of technology means that features and components are not a definitively closed issue.

Smart City

From the 2010s, the Smart City or “intelligent city” refers better to a geographical imagination which appears to be a key notion of discovery on urban posterity in a national and international context. To conceive of the origin of the expression Smart City, we bear witness to the reflection of Californian experts in the early 1990s, who tried to think about the consequences of the evolution of ICT and digitization on the management of small and large urban networks. (Housing, drinking and waste water, electrification, transport, energy, etc.) and on the policies of sustainable development of a city that knows how to adapt to any constraints in space and time. IBM thus comes to define the smart city as ‘one where all available interconnected information is optimally used to better understand and control operations and optimize the use of limited resources’.

“Smart cities” find it difficult to prescribe themselves as themes of theoretical or practical study, this difficulty is seen by blurry scientific concepts, and by the evolution of the circulation of ideas between the various actors involved directly or indirectly in the design of city policies. We cannot define a scientific definition of ‘Smart City’, but strive to shed light on the answers to emerging scientific questions in modern urban development, modernization / transformation (Eveno Emmanuel, 2018).

The international smart city policy is determined by its top-down quality, which is characterized by the institutional organization and the practice of planning, the Chinese begin their visions of the smart city with the national agenda harmonized by the central government. The management capacity of central cities, with regard to their periphery, is strengthened by the promotion of ITC as an urban management tool, ecology and low-carbon as a new mode of sustainable and intelligent development. The implementation is based on the anchoring, in Beijing, of a national center for innovation, by calling for the mobilization of various actors at the local level, to finance the projects through the public-private partnership  (Caragliu.A & al, 2009).

The smart city has had long transformations and rhythmic breathing of advance and retreat, with a significant detachment dominating the relations between actions, urban space and society, it must synchronize with the processes of transformation of cities on the basis of converging and divergent theories and to reintegrate all other territorial actors in the events of change of a city in the project of being a Smart city  (Antoine Picon, 2018/1).

This recent emergence directs us to make a selection between the different directions and options evoked by the ‘smart city’ formula. Antoine Picon, proposes in this sense to take the expression in its authentic perception: “it starts from an apparently simple assumption: in the Smart City, in the intelligent city, it is advisable to take the term intelligent in a much more sense. Literal as it might seem. Intelligent in the sense of what learns, understands, reasons”. Granting intelligence to the city would start to regard it as a living being. The hypothesis formulated by Antoine Picon does not fall into this trap since he proposes to shift the question of intelligence to non-human entities, namely artificial intelligence. This proves that many references to the ‘Smart City’ do not have this skill  (PICON Antoine, 2016).

The smart city is based on the strong use of information and communication technologies, but there are ambiguities that relate to the representation of the smart city, both in terms of technical infrastructure and general objectives in relation to the Development of electronic content and their increasing hybridization with the physical world, hybridization often qualified as augmented reality, its construction refers to a certain number of key issues such as the possibility of reconciling urban quality of life and sustainable development by means of fine management resources and technical infrastructure, which would make it possible to achieve the development and exponential growth of the smart city market justifies this choice a posteriori, particularly by achievements such as those of Songdo in South Korea, Masdar in Abu Dhabi, or in Projects like Plan IT Valley in northern Portugal.

The smart city has mechanisms for learning, understanding and reasoning, but these are attenuated by a dynamic of sustainable development which can herald their overcoming. Since smart cities is a process of complex technological innovations, strategies of local entities and practices that experience a new relationship between the urban where human and non-human are becoming more complicated every day.

According to the geographer specializing in new technologies, Emmanuel Eveno, the smart city is a concept with many controversies, namely: the speed of the diffusion of the smart city, the attractiveness of these cities on a national and global scale, Planets that allow cities to take on a global dimension with the Smart City label  (Ghorra-Gobin, 2019).

The researcher Steve Bernardin starts from the hypothesis according to which the smart city is associated with the improvement, as an operating mode aiming to answer all the difficulties by the science of sociology of the public problems, he aims to focus his study on the argumentation advantageous for entrepreneurs in favour of the smart city. While looking at the political and social requirements for the creation of the smart city from the dialogues and observations that can be carried out through fieldwork. The objective of which is to provoke purely academic and practical scientific questions, in order to find the new circumstances of innovation, in order to create ‘new economic models’ which make the adequacy between the supply of the city and the demand. Citizens in the foresight of solving urban problems  (Ghorra-Gobin, 2019).

Participatory and Sustainable City

The question of the individual is at the heart of the challenges of the smart city, regulated and piloted from above or city is supposed to arise from a more or less spontaneous coordination, it is because it refers to a much more fundamental question concerning Men and women today and how they view their identity and its evolution. In this sense, the smart city is naturally found in all the operationalization procedures, indeed the actors of a city or a territory must initiate a transformation policy going in the direction of the transmutation of their city. Or territory into an intelligent entity. This is what the Austrian town planner Rudolf Giffinger observes in this work geared towards the justification and classification of European ‘smart cities’. This is how he proposes to break down the ‘Smart City’ into six segments: ‘Smart Economy’, ‘Smart mobility’, ‘Smart governance’, ‘Smart people’, ‘Smart environment’, ‘Smart living’. Designed on the basis of exceptionally rich criteria, R. Gifinger’s method in principle makes it possible to measure intelligence and therefore to establish a classification between cities and territories  (Eveno Emmanuel, 2018).

The inhabitants must participate more than the promoters in smart cities, in issuing and anticipating any disputes that may come from civil society as well as inhabitants, it is a question of revealing that the human being and priority that the technology, and to allow for the rise in power of an inhabitant who, through the use of digital technologies, is also and more and more becoming an actor in the city. Several experiments underway in “urban laboratories” account for this phenomenon. These ‘urban laboratories’ (often called Urban Labs, even in France when they exist) strive to organize a better dissemination of municipal information to the population through the ‘recruitment’ of residents called to participate. In phases of testing services or actions in the public space. This participation can also go as far as budgetary commitments, in particular within the framework of actions carried out around ‘participatory budgets’ (Eveno Emmanuel, 2018).

However, we observe policies and their real implementation of the smart city or Smart City in Casablanca, it is certain that the application of the same measures does not yet really change the reality of Moroccan cities, in their materiality, as in their Use. In general, smart city policies are part of urban management methods where intelligence has arrived to replace the sustainable, in the sense that intelligence achieves a modern synthesis of digital and sustainable investments. But the intelligence of Moroccan cities appears rather as an additional layer in the dynamics of the construction of cities by the urban project, which is distinguished by its role of assemblers.

Subsequently, the strategic positioning and the modulation of intelligent urban references will be necessary to assess to what extent this new ‘intelligence’ of Moroccan cities contributes to sustainable development on the African continent as in Casablanca (Hernandez. F, 2015).

In 2010, the Shanghai International Expo ‘A Better City for a Better Life’ called on global groups to reexamine the way we live to better manage urban change and meet the demands of current and future generations. By 2030, the United Nations estimate that more than two out of three people will live in cities, which as such are affected by the perils of global warming  (GREEN INNOVATION, 2019). Indeed, cities have always been attractive environments where the connection between populations and movements is more serious. They participate in the innovation of accessibility and attractiveness and polarize the flow of goods, capital and migration.

Our reflection is directed towards mediation and synergy between universities, companies, local authorities with other public and private entities and in general, all the actors of the city with the other socio-economic actors. These groups will have economic, social and technological exchange links, with the presence of interaction networks and the transfer of knowledge via democratic, economic and educational branches or platforms  (Bertacchini Y. , 2000). For the smart city, the challenge is threefold:

  • The layout of the environment of the localities of social and economic exchanges;
  • The orientation of the city in connection with the local socio-economic fabric;
  • Communication of the identity and knowledge of the city.

At the same time, the various actors of the city, institutional, socio-economic, socio-educational, local authorities …, have the status of transmitters and receivers acting in a multiple position: both transmitters and mediators. As a result, the city becomes a space of access and expression between all citizens, following the appearance and expansion of new digital professional’samateurs, thus testifying to their civic commitment by highlighting available to citizens, their free time and their passion, to create new socio-technical devices for innovation of services, for the invention of new uses of the territory (platforms for the dissemination of digital public data).

The example of Bilbao shows: “that a strong architectural gesture, combined with entrepreneurial dynamism, can generate significant economic benefits and contribute to the enhancement of the territory, at several levels: the values ​​created can be economic (new residents, jobs generated). Or induced, business creation, tourist attractiveness, etc.), but also intangibles, such as improving the image of a territory or the quality of life of its peoples” (Bochet B., 2004).

Consideration of the environment and the sustainable development of the city space creates the cornerstones of the smart city, in addition the city must be better managed by new information and communication technologies. Public authorities should encourage local authorities to adopt in their agenda the fight against climate change, energy control and the development of awareness-raising and monitoring operations for local socio-economic actors present in their city territory. The region, through its pre-eminence over other local authorities and through its prerogatives in terms of development, planning and town planning, it must use its own skills, shared and transferred by the State to make cities sustainable, and therefore intelligent. Some cities, such as Casablanca in Morocco, have undertaken expertise operations through spaces attached to the environment and energy control.

In the same sense, the state must set up projects in urban areas at the level of municipalities or neighbourhoods to make cities more sustainable. This is the case of the “ecocity” or “eco-neighbourhood” intentions which aim to lead urban territories into a “post-carbon” society. The concept is to introduce in Morocco the liberalization of environmental growth within the framework of the city plan. Sustainable. ‘Ecocities’ must be unveiled as the future spaces of urban modernity by associating environmental suitability and technology, especially in the fields of communications and transport. These decisions will make it possible to engage in conversations between the State and local authorities, by setting up a vision fund for the development of sustainable cities, entitled “city of tomorrow”, in coordination with the large Caisses des Dépôts and Of Moroccan management, in order to maintain these projects as part of an investment program for the future  (Rudolf Giffinger, 2019).

The outlook is the integration into major smart new city projects of sustainable digital development and into the urban information universe as key issues that involve different types of measurements and records. In this perspective, the experience of a “connected road” can be used, hence the installation of various sensors which can collect in real-time data on the movements of vehicles and human beings, of public lighting, of Cleanliness…, as well all other environmental characteristics and sustainable development. The objective is to arrive at the creation of an information platform for the administration, the private sector and other territorial actors in order to offer innovative services at the interface of the physical and digital worlds, in this sense it Urban intelligence development plans must be implemented in a line with each city, in conjunction with a digital strategy displayed by the State to promote energy transition, offer new mobility solutions, fight against unemployment and poverty, or help in the creation of businesses… In a similar way, the application of information and communication technologies to the city in the vision of making it sustainable requires a growing investment on the part of local authorities and cities.

Smart structural system

In general, smart cities are based on three pillars, namely (figure 2):

  • Intelligent technology;
  • Intelligent staff;
  • Smart collaboration.

After explaining the concept of the smart city at the general introduction level, we will opt for the vision that; The city will only be smart when it commits to investments, in human and social capital and in classical (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure, by promoting sustainable economic growth and good quality of Life, with enlightened management of natural resources, within the framework of a local and participatory territorial administration (Caragliu, Del Bo C, & Nijkamp P, 2011).

Figure 2: Pillars of urban intelligence (realize by myself, OUAZIZ Ali, 09/2021)

What we can suggest, after citing the three pillars above a smart city, is to integrate the different aspects of intelligence. Our resonance considers that the city cannot be called smart, nor stupid, but can be broken down into structural and cultural characteristics. To clearly identify the specific components of the governance of the intelligent city in a progressive way, we would consider in this context to attract qualified human capital to invest in the city within the framework of collaborations between the various socio-economic actors. Organized and individuals using information and communication technologies and higher intelligent urban collaboration. I illustrate that it is important to note that the question of whether the higher level of transformation corresponds to the smart salty city or not is an action of an empirical question, and not a conceptual one. Quality administration and political elites can translate into strong interferences at the urban level and smart collaboration with initiatives to make things work concretely, which corresponds to the governance of an operational smart salty city with the right ones. Strategic choices implemented by policies chosen in an effective and efficient manner.

Smart governance system

An association between government management in the city through unconcentrated and decentralized services must qualify itself as intelligent and approve the development of the city by promoting it in certain areas that promote initiatives in favour of an intelligent salt city, in the need to restructure the smart governance decision-making process and the application of smart urban collaboration decisions between the different actors of the city.

We place this conceptualization in what underlines(Axhausen KW et al, 2012): ‘Smart governance is a much more powerful intelligence function for coordinating the multiple components that make up the smart city. It is a structure that brings together the classic functions of government and business. ‘ In the same sense, smart governance seen by(Agnew D et Tapscott D, 1999): ‘Is a widespread adoption of a more local governance model, characterized by greater connectivity, facilitated by new technologies’. But(Nijkamp P et al N. , 2012)Underline that: ‘smart governance concerns proactive and open-minded governance structures, which bring together all stakeholders, with the aim of strengthening the socio-economic and ecological performance of cities and of dealing with negative externalities and the effects of Path due to history”.

The objective is to make the city more energetic by reforming the monitoring and management of its main infrastructure, roads, transport systems, electricity networks, water and sanitation in real time. In this vision, the installation of sensors at the various strategic points of the city, proves to be a key tool, also databases which make it possible to keep track of the information it produces, from traffic volumes to consumption of Energy and water…, which generates a set of interceptions and measures that can be adopted at events making it possible to closely follow what is happening in the city.

In this sense, proper functioning has now become inseparable from the evolution of the concept of urban metabolism as evidenced by (Bélanger P., 2017),As at the origin of the environmental footprint, authors such as Erik Swyngedouw, Sabine Barles or Pierre Bélanger, affirm that the specific contribution of infrastructures to this footprint is based on correlations between data  (Barles S., 2007, ),Which are not necessarily to be explained, but simply to be observed through a neo-cybernetic and systemic approach, which are due to the epistemological fluctuation affecting the very notion of science of cities based on the exploitation of big data and artificial intelligence (Antoine Picon, 2018/1).

Interest in the smart city and its governance is expected to grow rapidly through adopted approaches that do not complicate the analysis of several publications indicating the importance given to smart technologies, smart people or smart collaboration as characteristics of businesses. Smart cities. The vision for the city is shaped by the transformation and progression to changes in urban governance, improved results or other more open processes to claim the legitimacy of the governance of the smart city. We are in favour of a global perspective which consists in evoking new forms of human collaboration by using ICT for better results and more open governance processes in e-government, which must be considered as a complex process of institutional change considering the political nature of the attractive visions of socio-technological governance  (Albert Meijer et Manuel Pedro Rodríguez Bolívar, 2016).

The governance of the smart city consists in imagining new forms of human collaboration between the communal leaders and the directors of the decentralized services of the city, they must understand well that the technology in itself will not make the city smarter. Building a smart city requires political understanding of technology, followed by a process approach to managing the emerging smart city, and consideration of economic gains and other public values. The city will be faced with the challenges of generating wealth and innovation, but also ensuring health and sustainable development, it must be green and safe, but also culturally dynamic  (Pierre J, 1999). It must be able to integrate ever-increasing populations of varied origins (cultural, religious, socioeconomic, academic, etc.), in order to emphasize the city’s administrations as a center of governance. An interest on the part of academia, in the sense that urban governance has become a well-developed academic field and essential for solving global problems (Barber B, 2013).

Making the city smart is a goal that no one can oppose as it translates into more effective smart governance solutions to social challenges, to make politicians and city administrators should try to solve all of them. The problems of the city through technology and innovation are gradually linked to urban governance in order to define approaches likely to make the city smarter (Landry, 2006), and strengthen the capacity of urban systems to cope with all problems and produce a wide range of public values. This initiative should constitute a partnership between companies, authorities, research organizations and the population, the objective of which is to develop the metropolitan area of ​​the city of Salé to make it a smart city, by focusing on certain issues, such as the Daily life, work, mobility, public facilities and open data  (Albert Meijer et Manuel Pedro Rodríguez Bolívar, 2016).

The smart government system is based on the integration of smart information systems and communication networks, creates transparent governance and effective digital government, through innovative policies, tackles financial, environmental, and service challenges. Of the city to improve the quality of life of citizens, in order to achieve long-term benefits and intelligent development of the city.

The government must digitize municipal services and facilitate communication within the city and its services, but also between public authorities and citizens, helping both parties to better understand the reasoning and demands of the other. Services should be improved by minimizing bureaucratic delays and increasing the efficiency of two-way interactions, while also taking into account the needs and experiences of citizens. The characteristics of smart governance must be functional by law, hierarchical system and relevant data. In addition, secured by an Internet connection and Intranet communication system, law enforcement, judicial system. As a result, the establishment of a smart foundation and policies, smart development, user-friendly and efficient digital government, effective communication, open data to the public & design and other features (Rochet C, 2015).

Conclusions and Future Directions

For the future development of smart cities, definitions of smart and participatory cities of each concept system should be presented. Through this synthesis, we want to establish a basis for understanding the concepts, tools, actions and objectives of systems, which both belong to Smart’s concepts. For the development of crisis management and resilience in cities, solutions, which will merge the philosophies of the concepts of the smart city and sustainable city, must be implemented and for a successful implementation, the relationships within. A clear structure of concepts, systems and their components must be understood. The objective is to support the territorial assessment within the city and to constantly guide those responsible for its implementation, continuously the leaders to choose the right solutions to be implemented, in order to put in place, the best practices. Appropriate in the city of tomorrow. We summarize the possibilities of how intelligence can be a valuable asset in the concept of a participatory and sustainable city.

The ambition as a researcher is to make the Moroccan City intelligent, to make it even conscious of current experiments and current international achievements, and beyond what the techniques available at the national level prescribes, this ambition is not first for the smart city that appears in a proportionally technological dynamic with its techno-optimistic or techno pessimistic corollaries. The objective is to minimize the contribution of technology compared to intelligence, which, due to its partially non-human character, has an unprecedented association between men, machines and algorithms. For a city whose digital tools make it possible to optimize operations and sustainability, at the same time as the quality of life of its inhabitants and the type of relations they maintain with each other, in the sense that the city makes Proof of a form of intelligence unlike his past.


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