While I started my previous blog post with the observation that KACST was not a “city,” Caroline Spicer, Strategy and Market Development Leader for IBM Global Business Services, made the point later in the day that there is not “a city” but many models of cities depending on future vision. There are a couple of points to draw out here. There is not one model of a smart city. Cities can focus on particular initiatives based on their leaders’ (and their constituents’) priorities and vision for the future of the city. As Caroline pointed out these might be:
The well-planned city – focused on urban design and development
The healthy and safe city – focused on health
The sustainable eco-city – focused on the environment
The city of innovation – focused on science and technology, the knowledge base
The city of commerce – focused on trade and retail
The cultural or convention hub – focused on tourism
Here I sit finally getting a chance to reflect on my 30 hours in Saudi Arabia. Yes, just a little more than one day. But one day was enough to change any preconception that I might have had, and spark my interest to learn more. My “day” started with the VIP treatment through passport control – which I must say was much appreciated. The airport in Riyadh is certainly not Dubai International – far from it. But if there were any disappointment at the inauspicious first impression, it stopped there. Although to set the stage, I was invited to Saudi Arabia by IBM to participate in an analyst event showcasing “Smarter Cities” initiatives in the Kingdom. So admittedly, I was only presented the “smart” side of Riyadh. I am eager to see more.