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Smart Cities are Not the Same as Resilient Cities

Author: Gabriel Velez



  1. Ariel Bierbaum, Assistant Professor, Urban Studies and Planning, University of Maryland
  2. Matthew Palm, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Scarborough
  3. Alex Karner, Assistant Professor, Hampton K. and Margaret Frye Snell Endowed Chair in Transportation, Urban Planning, University of Texas
  4. Deb Niemeier, Clark Distinguished Chair Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland


Session Summary

Prior to COVID-19, momentum had been growing for harnessing technology to foster economic and community development in smart cities. The pandemic has brought to the forefront many inequities, including access to technology and the connected infrastructure benefits it offers urban residents across the world. Within this context, this panel focused on discussing human rights concerns in relation to education, public transportation, and governance, as well the responses to these issues in the context of COVID-19.



  1. In light of responses to COVID-19 and the inequities that are brought to the surface by such challenges, technology is an important but not essential ingredient of a resilient city where the human rights of all are respected. It does not inherently promote resilience.
  2. Policy and planning for neighborhoods and schools create landscapes that codify race and class hierarchies, but can also be harnessed with a human rights lens to address inequity and injustice in social, political, and economic systems.
  3. Laws and regulations in transportation, education, and other key areas of urban infrastructure are fundamental for human rights and equity, which require organizing citizens and social networks to fight for change.


  1. The notion of smart governance—and the connected use of technology to support urban development and infrastructure—should be reappropriated with a more democratic configuration. 
  2. The development of smart cities with a focus on upholding the human rights of all is not abstract, but rather requires personnel and financial investment in identifying what justice would entail, hiring staff that share these values and orientations, and integrating these frameworks across organizations and institutions.


Key Words

  1. Smart cities
  2. COVID-19
  3. Technology access
  4. Inequity
  5. Education
  6. Governance