According to estimations, till 2050, two thirds of the world population will live in towns, consuming more than 70% of energy and emitting just as much greenhouse gases. As the population of cities grows, the demand for services but also pressure on resources will grow. This demand puts a strain on energy, water, waste, and any other services that are major for the prosperity and sustainability of a city.
A Smart City is an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects. The global market of Smart Cities is expected to grow from $410,8 billion in 2020 to $820,7 billion by 2025 with 14,8% compound annual growth rate. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for public safety, rising urban population, and growing government initiatives. Smart Cities contribute to the EU objectives towards social fairness and prosperity, empowerment of people through digital technologies, as well as the objectives of the “European Green Deal”.
The lack of skills is a major barrier to exploit the Smart Cities potential
Smart cities utilize data and deploy services using advanced technologies, such as Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Internet of Things to offer new and enhance existing services, as well as, to provide context-aware views on city operations. Their development is highly complex and challenging and requires technicians and engineers from the public sector and industry equipped with skills and competences that are currently in short supply. Thus, given the dynamic nature of Smart Cities, their workforce needs to be reskilled/upskilled by acquiring new and transferable skills and knowledge.
The lack of digital skills is the biggest barrier to effectively using big data and other digital technologies (e.g. Internet of Things and Cloud Computing) for city management. According to a recent survey of 3,000 tech leaders, conducted by KPMG and IT outsourcers Harvey Nash, 65% of the responding companies declared challenges to hire professionals with data and analytics skills. A recent survey also showed that 76% of companies felt like they needed more higher-level Internet of Things specialists. Moreover, the public sector’s digital skills shortages put brakes on its digital transformation with 40% of public sector organizations not having the right digital skills in place.
Helping the Smart City face its economic, environmental, and social challenges also requires a continuous update of knowledge and skills that go far beyond the technical field and cover a wide range of non-technical/transversal areas. There is need for Smart Cities technicians and engineers equipped with soft skills, like critical thinking/problem solving, communication, and leadership. Such skills are also in short supply with Cedefop emphasizing the need for a better match between education and training and what industry requires in the field of personal competences. Moreover, to seize the entrepreneurial opportunities generated by the infusion of technology into the urban space, the development of entrepreneurial skills is essential. Last but not least, developing green skills to meet the needs of the transition into a carbon-neutral and circular economy and design effective ways of tackling urban development issues, (e.g. air pollution, congestion, sustainable living) is another challenge that the Smart Cities technicians and engineers are facing.