The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set the goal (no.11) to 'Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable'. The most popular strategy to achieve this is the smart city concept. The smart city has become the leitmotiv of urban development in the sustainability transition.
The smart city promises to reorganise the flows of resources, goods, services and people much more efficiently, drawing on sensor technologies and articial intelligence, and thereby potentially saving resources on a massive scale. Many cities have engaged in partnerships with technology corporations to pilot data-based ways of running the city. The European Union has dedicated more than 120 million Euros in 2016 and 2017 to 'Smart Cities and Communities lighthouse projects' under its Horizon 2020 programme call SCC-1-2016-2017. According to the Horizon 2020 call 'the goal is to facilitate a successful transformation towards intelligent, user-driven and demand-oriented city infrastructures and services'.
On the other hand, there is growing resistance to framing the urban sustainability transition mainly as an investment and business opportunity requiring private investors. According to critical voices, there is a clear risk that smart cities end up selling their citizens' data to private investors for private profit, rather than using the data for the common good. Additionally, instead of serving sustainability and enhancing quality of life, many smart city innovations could be used for the surveillance and manipulation of citizens. The way data has been handled by some cities has been exposed as failing to meet the requirements of privacy and data security. Data has in the past often been shared with businesses without the active consent of the citizens. The concept of the 'Smart City' has recently been awarded the 'Big Brother Award' by the German NGO Digitalcourage.