Is IT making people happier?

Only one urban designer in five believes that Information Technology (IT) is having a significant positive impact on the well-being and happiness of citizens living in global cities, according to findings of research into the impact of IT on cities and towns by global architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan.

In September Broadway Malyan interviewed 60 expert urban designers and masterplanners across its 16-strong global studio network – in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Americas.

The research reveals that IT is playing a major role across global cities – in aiding movement, driving the use of shared places, improving city management, changing the appearance and form of cities and delivering better designed buildings and places – but, critically, IT is not significant in enhancing citizens’ actual well-being and happiness.

James Rayner, Main Board Director and masterplanning expert at Broadway Malyan, said:

“In all the talk about so-called ‘smart cities’, in which ‘smart’ technology will be harnessed to make cities greener, more efficient and improve the quality of life for citizens, there is an implicit assumption that technology will result in happier and more enjoyable places.‎ 

“However, while our experts predict that IT will play an increasing role in helping citizens move about in cities, it will create new types of shared places, aid city management and drive citizens’ engagement in decision-making they also report that IT is not contributing to citizens’ well-being and happiness in any significant way. 

The UK government predicts that the global market for smart city solutions will be $408bn by 2020 and it believes that the UK has particular strengths in delivering services which could account for up 25% of the total market. In July India’s new government announced it will spend $1.13bn on building 100 smart cities, taking its cue from developments elsewhere in Asia, including China and Singapore.

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