At Leicester City Council, we’re more than 12,500 people, all working together to serve the people, communities and businesses of the biggest city in the East Midlands. We have a directly elected mayor and 54 councillors, representing 21 wards. As a unitary authority, we take decisions that affect thousands of lives every day. From social services and schools, to housing and roads, to setting council tax and providing leisure facilities.
Leicester City Council’s Smart City strategy is aimed at improving people’s lives in the city through better use of digital technology. The strategy will combine Leicester’s digital, physical and social environment to deliver an inclusive, thriving and sustainable city for all.
Leicester needs to be a smart city. Global challenges, such as the climate emergency and Covid-19, serve as a stark reminder of the need to be a smart city. We need to use digital technology and real time data to inform and support the choices we make as a city, as businesses, as communities, as individuals.
Message from Councillor Danny Myers, Assistant City Mayor
“The recent lockdown has accelerated our transition to digital and changed the way we think about how and where we work and learn.
Our smart strategy helps us develop this thinking and ensure that the momentum is not lost. This strategy places digital technology at the heart of the city’s attempts to build back better post Covid-19.
The Smart Leicester strategy will catalyse partnership working among the city’s communities, businesses, educators and government to improve the quality of life in Leicester. Leicester’s data platforms, digital infrastructure and social capital should provide the foundations for a programme of projects that will:
- Build connected communities with free Wi-Fi on council housing estates;
- Widen access to online learning and expand data literacy and digital skills;
- Promote new digital jobs and offer workspace and support for creative start-ups;
- Promote health technology, sustainable travel and clean air;
- Regenerate Leicester with low-carbon retrofits, district heating and multimodal transport;
- Run the City in real-time with live data and digital platforms to improve services;
- Help people access the information they need to make decisions and get assistance;
- Respond creatively to the climate crisis, ill-health and poverty.
Of course, we know there are difficult times ahead but as a city we’ve worked together brilliantly during lockdown to support each other. We can rise to this challenge as well. Together we can transform Leicester into a people’s smart city. Please get involved, we need you.”
A people’s smart city
With its vibrant population, creative industries, world-class universities and a growing space sector, Leicester has the capacity and capability to become a smart city.
A smart city combines its built, natural and social environments with information technology to support enterprise, growth, innovation and sustainable development.
Smart cities across the world have focused on technology. Leicester’s focus on people will humanise smart cities.
Leicester’s vision of a smart city is one where people are sufficiently informed to appreciate the improvements that a smart city offers; they are engaged in shaping smart solutions that improve their lives; and they are empowered to live with dignity under the umbrella of a resilient city.
Leicester, as a people’s smart city, will draw upon the energies and expertise of academia, local communities, business and the public sector to secure digital, economic and social inclusion and respond to the twin threats of climate emergency and infection.
Challenges and priorities
Early scoping reviewed the city’s challenges and opportunities. The review found that the core challenges included:
- Ageing communities and lasting health;
- The climate emergency;
- Energy insecurity and fuel poverty;
- Traffic congestion and poor air quality;
- Entrenched social exclusion, isolation and widening inequality;
- Low growth, investment and skills.
Related to these challenges, the following priorities for action have emerged:
- Independent living, health and wellbeing;
- Shrinking the City’s carbon footprint;
- Efficient and renewable energy;
- Informed travel and transport choices, and enhanced air quality;
- Digital skills and an inclusive smart economy;
- Ultrafast broadband and mobile services that support digital culture and creativity;
- Data platforms to tackle city challenges in real-time.
By responding to changes in world conditions, such as the climate emergency and Covid-19, a smart city becomes more resilient. Similarly, this smart strategy may also help Leicester manage and recover from crises, downturns and unexpected change.
Aims and smart themes
To address its challenges and priorities, Smart Leicester aims to:
- better connect people in Leicester – digitally, physically and socially;
- transform neighbourhoods into places that nurture inclusive and resilient communities.
The logical structure of Smart Leicester’s Strategy is simply its aims, themes, objectives and outcomes that are served by projects.
The aims are encircled by six smart themes:
Smart participation and wellbeing
The smart participation and wellbeing theme addresses inequality and isolation; independent living and wellbeing; mental health and healthcare; sport and fitness; and social and digital inclusion.
Smart solutions might include assistive technology, social prescriptions and community wayfinding.
Smart learning and skills
Smart learning and skills is a theme that concerns digital inclusion to support remote working, online learning and e-commerce.
Along with the availability of devices and good quality broadband, digital skills are another core component of connectivity.
The city’s objective, therefore, is to improve access to online classes, supported by better internet connections and suitable equipment, so that all residents can fully enjoy the digital life experience.
Smart business and economy
Smart business and economy is focused upon business and employment, particularly in difficult circumstances.
The theme encompasses the objectives of offering suitable enterprise support to enable innovation, grow sustainable jobs and make the city more attractive for investors and start-ups.
Potential activities include the offer of a bespoke Leicester top-level domain name, hosting solutions, data storage, improved graduate retention and low-density incubation and work-space.
Smart buildings and infrastructure
Smart buildings and city infrastructure is a theme about sustainable buildings and housing, the public realm and transport.
Objectives under this theme include insulation and efficiency to reduce fuel poverty; clean renewable energy and local energy security; sustainable buildings and housing; smart multi-modal transport, including cycling and walking, and electric vehicle charging.
Smart governance and services
Smart governance and services is about publishing more open data about the city, creating a go-to platform for people to access help and resources, including customer services online, electronic forms information platforms.
Our aim is to exploit real-time and open data to improve decision-making, strengthen service delivery and enhance city performance.
Greater transparency, artificial intelligence and more insightful decision-making will help prioritise actions that address the climate crisis, economic recovery, inequality, poverty and social exclusion.
Smart creativity and culture
Smart creativity and culture covers the use of digital in artistic endeavours and Leicester’s cultural evolution around its digital life experience.
The objective under this theme is to build the city’s cultural capital and encourage participatory place-making through the deployment of creative technology and popular digital engagement.
Examples include smart museums, interactive cultural experiences, virtual mass events and performances, and augmented tourist attractions.
Collaborative and cohesive smart city
Core communication themes will develop and evolve, nonetheless central messages about the purpose of Smart Leicester include the following:
Informed, engaged and empowered people
People should enjoy the best broadband and mobile network coverage, and improve their lives through digital access to culture, information, learning, services and work. All the city’s electronic communications and documents will be in accessible formats.
Partnerships and engagement between businesses, local government, charities and non-profit organisations will lead to poverty reduction, social good, innovation and sustainable enterprises.
Digitally empowered, the people of Leicester can make their voices heard. They will pool their knowledge, skills and talents and, through creative collaboration, tackle the city’s social challenges.
Sharing opportunities and prosperity
By 2025 Leicester will be known as a people’s smart city, where everyone may live with dignity and share in the prosperity of a growing international city and destination.
Personal development through digital learning and training will reduce economic exclusion, poverty, social isolation and inequality. Online services, for example, in education, health and social care will be intuitive and responsive to peoples’ needs.
Leicester will build its diverse cultural capital to attract artists, investors, students and visitors from across the world, which will strengthen the city as a centre of creativity and design.
A smart sustainable environment
Digitally enabled bicycles and paths, greenspace, leisure facilities, outdoor gyms, walkways and urban woodlands will improve Leicester’s quality of life and the wellbeing of its people.
Smart transport planning and multi-modal journeys will ease congestion. Electric buses will become more plentiful, convenient and responsive to our travel needs.
With a commitment towards low carbon building and renewable energy sources, Leicester will help tackle the global climate emergency that threatens our very future.
With less commuting, more remote working, and more cycling, walking and electric vehicles, Leicester’s air will become better to breathe.
Conclusion – Smart Leicester
The Smart Leicester Strategy aims to improve the experience of digital city life through the better use of technology and data.
Smart Leicester complements parallel strategies that address the climate emergency, urban poverty and economic development with data-led, people-focused solutions to deliver an effective response to crises and strengthen the city’s resilience.
Strategic communications will promote a vision of a people’s smart city, where everyone can become more engaged in the economic, social and technological development of Leicester.
This empowerment involves collaboration among Leicester’s communities and stakeholders, without which the city cannot grapple with urban challenges successfully nor pursue its priorities.
Therefore, the Smart Leicester Strategy helps build effective relationships around action to move the city towards a digitally enhanced and inclusive future.
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