By taking away initiative, enforcing top-down control, and focusing on maximizing efficiency instead of possibility, the smart city is a disaster waiting to happen. Our hope lies in its constituents: the citizens.

Citizens can become smart, engaged, and illuminated through mastering the technologies that help them express themselves, connect to others, share their resources and thoughts, and that helps them to reflect so they can decide the best course of action. In short, the technologies that help them to solve their own problems in a better and more thorough way.

Smart Citizens Labs 
These days, we see great initiatives that make citizens smarter everywhere: from Fablabs and Maker Spaces where physical things are made; to Code Clubs and Fabschools where adults and children learn to programme; to sharing platforms like Peerby that allow citizens to live better lives with less; to Repair Cafés and urban farming that make cities more resilient. 

Serious problems require serious solutions, and such solutions don’t happen overnight. What’s needed is a city built around labs where problems can be solved as they are researched, designed, and tested. Mediators—like Forum Virium in Helskini, FutureEverything in Manchester, FING in Paris, Citilab in Barcelona and Waag Society in Amsterdam — are helpful, as a kind of middle ground where the powers that be and the new kids on the block can meet and build on each other. An example of this merging of new and old is the Amsterdam Smart Citizens Lab, a public lab that will help citizens to build sensor networks to research their environment, and which will allow them to take appropriate action after studying the problems.

We also need open infrastructures for the new Internet of Everything to work well. Big business is typically in for big profits, and needs to be handcuffed to work in the public interest. Forcing them to use open standards, open software, and peer 2 peer networking will do the trick in part. Yet, it would be better still to use smaller, local companies that will do the job better and faster.