HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


We have long advocated, in this space and on our own platform, for better, faster and cheaper government, and have argued that technological modernization is a top driver of how we get there. That’s a central premise of the growing “smart cities” movement, and it's one that has excited the imaginations of mayors and other officials of local governments large and small. But not everyone is so excited about the idea. While there have always been a few questions about the value of the smart city, several writers have taken that argument a step further. In a New York Times op-ed titled “I’m an Engineer, and I’m Not Buying Into ‘Smart Cities’,” for example, Shoshanna Saxe of the University of Toronto writes that while “there will always be a place for new technology in our urban infrastructure … we may find that often, ‘dumb’ cities will do better than smart ones.” Tech solutions, Saxe argues, can be “a fun but unnecessarily complicated approach to solving challenges with more direct solutions.” Arguments like Saxe’s are not without value, yet we think their usefulness lies in highlighting and guiding what issues local officials should keep in mind as they move toward better, faster and cheaper government. Rather than allow the smart city critics to torpedo the progress and improvements made by smart cities, we maintain that governments must thoughtfully and intentionally accelerate digital transformation on an array of fronts.


Goldsmith, Stephen, and Betsy Gardner. "No, We Don't Need Dumb Cities." Data-Smart City Solutions. September 27, 2021.