Smart City Solutions Roundtable: 29.11.2019 / Fenerbahçe Divan Faruk Ilgaz, Istanbul


The event started with an introduction of what Youthink stands for and our mission this year of focusing and regionalising the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. The Sustainable Development Goals were divided into 4 groups according to relevance. This Smart City Solutions Roundtable served the Second Group which had the goals of “Affordable and Clean Energy”, “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure”, and “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. Each goal would be discussed and assessed throughout the discussion and in the publications that would be explained afterwards through experts from different backgrounds and areas. These publications were written by the Youthink Academy team. 

The significance and the goal of this roundtable was to raise awareness about smart cities for the youth participants. The participation of the interested students would enhance youth empowerment and provide a momentum and platform for the youth to take active roles in global issues for this is primarily the concern of Youthink. Moreover, this Youthink event was organized to be a meeting ground for different sectors such as academia, the municipality, the public and private sectors to foster discussion that would lead to solutions in Turkey. 

Session 1: Thinking Smart City Solutions: Technological, Innovative, and Social Aspects 

The first session started with a presentation by Fatih Terzi. He highlighted the global trends and population changes emphasizing that the population is growing at an exponential rate. Major changes in the history of mankind with the industrial revolution and the digital age had postponed the “end of the world”, yet we are once again facing threat as the rate of change is slowing down while the rate of population growth is increasing. By 2100, everywhere will become cities. 

Currently, different areas are becoming more densely populated and especially in the coastal regions where the effect or threat of climate change is the greatest. By 2050, it is expected that there will be many medium sized decentralized cities due to the technological advancements. He stated that middle cities will be easier to handle anomalies, yet data collection systems must be institutionalized before all else. Decentralization through smart city solutions will bring more stability in the economy because a country’s economy will become less dependent on one concentrated city. The problem of Turkey’s economy being highly dependent on Istanbul and the weight of the threat of a natural disaster in these megacities were highlighted. Furthermore, Fatih Terzi emphasized that smart cities will change the concept of cities as they will no longer be regionalized; the limits will disappear. 

After the presentation, there was a Q&A session where other experts commented on the presentation. There, the fact that smart cities are not just about technological advancement was emphasized. It is not just a position but a perspective. The technology that is incorporated may not be sustainable in itself. It is crucial for the “sustainable” and the “smart” to come together in the making of a smart city. 

The next presentation was by Beril Kırcı. Beril Kırcı defined Smart cities as places where the needs of the people are met, where there is sustainable, clean, and efficient energy usage, and where energy is sufficiently supplied. To this end, the driving forces of sensors, energy, infrastructure, data, and communication must be established in the city and this is done through city governance, education, and internalization. Beril Kırcı also argued that for smart city verticals to be realized, driving forces should be internalized through the process which she calls “convergence”. Data collection is crucial to formulate plans for better handling of climate change, damage from natural disasters, and public health. This data is lacking in Turkey. 

A Smart City would be one that knows how to handle these problems well. Here, she added another concept of “future-proof” cities. These cities would be prepared to handle future threats through strategic planning, cooperation, and taking action. She emphasized that currently there is much dialogue in Turkey about smart cities, yet there is a lack of actual cooperation to take action. This cooperation would incorporate the public and private sector. Municipalities must govern the city services and provide the trust for the population to share their data; in the private sector, a platform must be created for which competition in the market can be transferred in this direction to create more sustainable cities. 

After Beril Kırcı’s presentation, Esat Temimhan emphasized the main problems of Istanbul: traffic congestion, damage caused by probable earthquakes, climate change and migration. Emphasizing the importance of participatory solutions for the management of these problems, Temimhan said that smart projects should start dealing with the local problems and that strategic plan studies should be done.

The next presentation was done by Fatih Karaman from ISBAK. He explained the different traffic systems that have been implemented currently in Turkey: radar and camera systems to control traffic flow, applications that notify traffic speed and available parking spaces, EDS systems. The goal of these systems is to make life easier for the citizens through the sharing of information. 

As a current problem in the context of smart city solutions, the inadequacy of data collection and use in the city was mentioned. For example, it is stated that the information gathered in Istanbulkart is not being used except for arranging bus services.

A current vision of ISBAK is to create a carless city as a proposal for creating future-proof cities. For this vision to come about, Fatih Karaman emphasized the importance of culture and awareness. Beril Kırcı also agreed and yet commented that this car-less society is hard to be imagined when considering the convenience of having a personal car. Other experts highlighted that that is why this vision cannot be forced but must come about naturally in time through the help of education. Solutions come about in times of crisis and chaos. 

Lastly, Kerem Ulusoy presented about a survey that was conducted on February 2019 by Marmara Belediyeler Birliği. This survey included 33 municipalities representing 15% of the region, and 50% of the total population. The definition of a smart city was firstly established as being a city that focuses on the person, the environment, and wellbeing. A Smart City requires flexibility, productivity, sustainability, participatory attitude, provision of high living quality, and enhancement of value. 

The first question of the survey was “Which subject do you prioritize the most?”. The top three choices were waste management, transportation, and municipal services. The next question was “What are the obstacles for realising Smart City Solutions?”. To this the top three choices were the lack of teamwork among the branches, lack of experience and vision, and the lack of governance and coordination. 

Ulusoy said that for smart city projects to be realized, the three top prioritized partners were assessed as 33% public sector, 33% private sector, and dishearteningly, 5% citizens. Furthermore, he constantly emphasized that the problem in Turkey is not the lack of resources but the management of resources. Yet, the insight we received from the survey was that despite lack of institutionalization, there is high excitement and desire from the municipalities to realize these smart city projects if possible. 

In the Q&A sessions after the presentation, one of the student participants stated that she has never taken such courses about smart cities despite majoring in industrial engineering. Upon this comment, Fatih Terzi was asked about the current discussion coming about in the academic arena and especially the universities. Currently, there are courses such as “Digital Solutions for Smart Cities” which is an intensive elective course to learn more about such issues. However, this depth in the academy has just emerged, he added.

Beril Kırcı also noted that currently most are top-down policies and participation channels for citizens are quite limited. This in effect creates projects that lack planning and participation of the people. As there is greater fear of damage from natural disasters on the rise in Istanbul, we must stop waiting and become active to provide services that actually serve the needs of the people. With this comment, the first session of the Roundtable ended. 

Session 2: Implementation of Smart Cities Solutions in Cities in Turkey: Possibilities and Challenges 

The second session started with an introductory video created by the Youthink team under the project coined “What Do Youthink?”. The video consisted of street interviews asking the simple question, “What are Smart Cities?” to informally assess the awareness of the people in Turkey.  The responses were mostly “I do not know” or mentions of technological innovations or conservation of the environment. 

Upon comments on the video, professor Fatih Terzi mentioned that as the population increases, the problems change and deepen. Our job as experts is to analyze where the root of the advancements of city lies and find the problems in the causal links. He emphasized the importance of finding solutions with the least effort possible. He gave the example of the parking balloons in seoul where when a driver is looking for a place to park, he or she can look up at the balloons and when he or she parks, the balloons sinks with the movement of the car. Such innovative ideas are low cost but highly efficient.

Terzi said that the situation analysis was followed by the cost/benefit analysis and drew attention to the fact that the projects should be prepared in accordance with this analysis. A more mathematical analysis must be made in policy or technological implementation; a kind of a cost benefit, budget analysis. The third stage is the evaluation of positive externalities, which implies that the solution must bring about a sustainable result but also be sustainable in itself. Furthermore, he emphasized that these changes must be backed up by societal changes. 

Comments and questions from the participants included whether the Haussmann city plan in France could also be implemented for Turkey. To this, Professor Terzi commented that before such goals are made, the purpose must be thoroughly discussed and that it must be regionalized. The motto of “maximum benefit through minimum change” was stressed. From this perspective, he also questioned if Haussmann plan should be considered as smart city solution.

Another question of how the citizen can participate was asked. “If one comes up with a solution, to whom must we address this solution to?” To this question, the answer was that regional authorities must be in coordination to be able to hear the suggestions and demands of the citizens. The citizens must address the municipalities. Crowdsourcing and participation of the citizens should be promoted. Instead, what we see is passing the responsibility to the next generation which is not a solution to the problems. 

The answer to the next question of “Who is responsible for the urban problems?” was that the individual is the actor: the bringer and solver of the problems. To bring greater solutions to current urban problems, the necessity of a cultural revolution was brought up. Upon this, the question of “How can we bring about cultural revolution?” was asked. Professor Terzi answered this question by stating that cultural revolutions come about through the self-organization of the population. Internalization cannot happen by force. What we can do is to be a catalyst in bringing the incentives to activate the population; education being one of the catalysts. What we can provide is a feeling of trust and safety in implementing changes especially when it comes to data sharing. 

Kerem Ulusoy’s next presentation titled “Living Labs as a Solution for a Smart City” emphasized the importance of people-oriented innovation, collaboration, data sharing, the applicability of ideas and the design-oriented aspects of smart city policies. Ulusoy said that innovation should be user, design and goal oriented.

Some of the problems in Turkey are that there is a general carelessness and lack of awareness in the population, inefficient management of resources, lack of a cooperative culture, lack of experience, and lack of innovative spirit. To demonstrate the lack of cooperative culture and inefficiency, Kerem Ulusoy showed a picture of Turkish traffic congestion with cars trying to cut in from the sides. 

To bring about the focus to innovation, education and cultural change must be involved, and this cultural change is realized through platforms such as Living Lab. Living Lab is like the catalyst to bring cultural change. It is a place for innovative startup businesses are supported and provided a place to test. This movement must be done at the municipal level; it must think small first. Emphasizing that the basic building block of Living Lab is the people, Ulusoy underlined that efficient results cannot be achieved if the participant groups are not included in the process.

After this talk by Kerem Ulusoy, Beril Kırcı came up to speak about the importance of platforms. Furthermore, that data collection is not the goal but the correct evaluation of data that determines whether the city will function smartly or not. It requires an integrative system, and the platforms would be the places where the data would be used. For this purpose, Beril Kırcı listed the following factors as the features of a correct platform: integration with different systems, one-stop management, dynamic screen management, user-friendly interface, communication with command centers, interactive map and 3D model, event pool and dynamic workflow, multi-user interaction, integrated security, video analysis support, detailed analysis and reporting.

Further comments were made from the young participants about how much they have learned and how it has been an eye-opening experience. Furthermore, they added that they have understood the importance of the role of the youth in spreading and enhancing this idea of smart cities into awareness and action. Beril Kırcı spoke that the role of the youth is crucial for our futures with smart cities and encouraged the initiative to take place in universities; Professor Terzi stressed that this must be an interactive process; and last but not least, Kerem Ulusoy emphasized that we must not lose this enthusiasm to realize the vision of smart cities. 

Summary of the Publications written by Youthink Academy 

The first publication written by Sueah Sohn was about how smart cities can create sustainable cities and communities through technological advancements, but also through the cooperation of citizens. The vision of “Smart Cities” does not just lie in the advanced technology, but actually in serving the needs of the citizens. This requires that the citizens’ voices be heard. Greater cooperation creates a stronger community and smarter citizens for the Smart City to be realized. In the second publication, the main issue was 

The second publication written by Hakki Uysal stressed the importance of cities as the population is increasing and there is an ever increasing rate of urbanization. Under these conditions, the extraction, management, and usage of resources stands crucial. Three factors must be considered: technological innovation, infrastructural innovation, and political innovation. If at least one of these are not cared for, the effective shift to a smart city is not possible. 

The third publication written by Aybars Berber was about the 7th goal in the sustainable development goals: clean and affordable energy. The writing stated that only about 13% of the energy used in 2017 was energy made from renewable resources. It highlighted that under this rate, we will have used up all of our energy resources by 2050. To prevent this, the publication listed different renewable resources to generate energy such as: solar, geothermal, wave, wind, etc. 

The last publication written by Tugce Gül Özbay was about Smart City initiatives in Turkey and the challenges that it may face. These include that Smart city planning is not the main concern of the Turkish municipalities, and the process involved in actualizing the plan for both the municipalities and the private sector. 

The Publications of Youthink Academy Team*

Towards a Sustainable City and Community

By Sueah Sohn

Think of a world running with sustainable energy from solar, wave, and wind power. A world where there is zero waste that is being wasted. Now, think the exact opposite of this because that is the world we are living in now. 

Larissa Suzuki presented in TedTalk UCL that an urban center like London now is currently giving off energy waste, food waste, congestion, and air pollution that when calculated to economic value, exceeds the annual revenue that Google gets by 42 times. This is only the start of the problem as more people are migrating to the city (TED, 2015, 4:20). 

In 2018, if 55 percent (which is 4.2 billion people) of the world population lived in cities, this number will exceed to reach 6.5 billion in 2050. Not only that but, cities are also responsible for at least 70% of carbon emissions and 60-80% of energy consumption when it only occupies 3 percent of the Earth’s land. And 828 million people are estimated to be already living in slums presently. In this context, cities have become significant in determining the livelihood of many people (United Nations, 2014). There must be measures taken to make sure that what is being done today does not affect the next generation that will be in greater mass in these urban centers. To combat such issues, many countries both developed and developing have implemented smart city policies to bring about a more sustainable city and community. 

A Smart City can be compared to a human body as compared by Singaporean architectural planner Cheong Koon Hean. Hean states that the buildings are the muscles, greenery like the lungs, roads like the veins, and a sensor system collecting data like the 5 senses in the body (TED, 2015, 2:49). In this smart planning, cities are made into 3D computations with all information on wind ways and solar exposure incorporated in the model (TED, 2015, 4:13). Through this, planners are able to find which ways air is best ventilated to discourage air conditioner usage saving energy, or deciding where the sun hits most to decide the location of the solar panels. Within the buildings, smart lighting is implemented where the sensors detect and predict which ways that the person will go and adjust the brightness accordingly (TED, 2015, 5:20). On the roads, sensors will send data to the smartphone allowing people to find places to park their cars allowing people more information for transport planning and reducing traffic (TED, 2015, 7:32). Furthermore, not only in architecture, in the health sector, a smart city includes technology where in an aging population like Singapore, the elder are put sensors on their bodies, to measure their movement. In case there is irregular movement or no movement, then a notification is sent to the smartphone of the caretaker (TED, 2015, 12:10). Other home management energy conservation technology is incorporated in the system of a smarty city (TED, 2015, 14:38). 

A smart city in a developed country like Singapore may be a quite attractive and complementary thing considering that Singapore has 85% phone penetration and can make use of such data (TED, 2015, 2:06). Many governments now are drawn and promote the smart city model in their countries including developing countries (Eisebith, 2019: 1). 

What we find that is being emphasized nowadays is what Martina Fromhold-Eisebeth and Gunter Eisebith state as the product-processes view in assessing smart cities. If we only have a product view, then this only implies the urban authorities telling what features will be in the improved city (Eisebith, 2019: 1-3). This is similar to the “Housing-for-All” policy that was implemented in India targeting the homeless laborers which ended as a failure, because giving the homeless workers just the house as a product only solved one problem and brought many other problems. This lack of communication with the homeless workers resulted in them choosing to stay in the streets because of the convenience of proximity to the work place which was not in the calculation of the government policy (TED, 2013, 6:39). 

Rakhi Mehra, a social anthropologist has taken this information to provide tents in the streets for these workers and provided microfunds for families living in the slums to build their homes (TED, 2013, 7:50). This has also been put into the smart city policy because smart sustainable city is not only about the technology, but also about meeting the needs of the local people in innovative ways, creating sustainable and interconnected communities, and providing a safe and inclusive environment for an enhanced quality of life (Elgazzar, 2017: 251). 

The process view asks the questions of “how will the citizen’s participate?” “Who are the decision-makers, stakeholders, benefiters?” We must consider collaboration, leadership, and transparency to really have the full evened out benefits of what smart cities can bring. This includes good governance and the building of a sense of community (Eisebith, 2019: 3-4). 

Smart cities are not about individual technological advancements but about how there are interconnected and synchronized (Elgazzar, 2017: 251). There are no smart cities without smart citizens. Smart citizens are those who know how to contribute into the decision making of these technological advancements that are designed for their urban lives (Elgazzar, 2017: 251). Recently, as cities in India were trying to implement the Smart City Model, the government was accused of neglecting 16 human rights in the planning of the cities (Eisebith, 2019: 4). Once again, the emphasis lies in that Smart Cities are designed for the needs of the people in the urban centers by trying to find ways that will not damage the environmental, societal, and economic conditions in the area (Elgazzar, 2017: 252). 

Understanding that the implementation of Smart City involves a multi-dimensional understanding of not just technological advancement but also about enhancing citizen participation in the process and social innovation, there still lies ahead challenges that this Smart City system must face. As large data is being collected about individuals and may be brought into the wrong hands, the issue of data security is something that may make people reluctant to accept such a system. This system requires high percentages of coverage and capacity for a well-functioning city that may be hard to realize. Furthermore, as cities have already been built upon, it may be hard to smart plan in already existing infrastructure for energy, water, and transportation systems (Akhtar &Hasley, 2018:3).

Despite these challenges, what we find is that in both developed countries like Singapore with their high-tech systems in their cities and in developing countries like India where social innovation is providing for the needs of the people, there is an effort in both to create a more sustainable city and community both for the present and the future generation. This consideration for the needs of the planet and the needs of the people is what brings about the sustainable community and the Smart City as we should know it. 


Akhtar, Norman, and Kevin Hasley. “Smart Cities Face Challenges and Opportunities.”, 25 July 2018,

Eisebith, Martina & Eisebith, Gunter. “What can Smart City policies in emerging economics actually achieve? Conceptual considerations and empirical insights from India.” World Development 123(2019): 1-12. Elsevier, DOI:10.4614 

Elgazzar, Rasha F. & El-Gazzar, Rania F. “Smart Cities, Sustainable Cities, or Both?” Smart Cities and Green ICT Systems(2017): 250-257. Researchgate, DOI: 10.5220

“Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.” UNDP,

Goggins, Gary & Fahy, Frances & Jensen, Charlotte Louise. “Sustainable transitions in residential energy use: Characteristics and governance of urban-based initiatives across Europe.” Cleaner Production 237(2019): 1-11. Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016

Hean, Cheong Koon. “How we design and build a smart city and nation.” TEDxSingapore: Ideas Worth Spreading, Dec 2015,

Mehra, Rakhi. “Making Smart Cities Socially Inclusive.” TEDxBocconiU: Ideas Worth Spreading, May 2013,

Suzuki, Larissa. “What are Smart Cities?” TEDxUCLWomen: Ideas Worth Spreading, Dec 2015,

Let’s Raise the Energy of the World

By T. Aybars Berber

             Energy is one of the key elements of life on Earth. From charging your mobile phone to manufacturing that mobile phone, all the aspects of life needs energy like human body. Human body produces energy by nutrition. Let’s ask a question about the nutrition for producing energy. What would you choose, a health and clean nutrition or an unhealthy and harmful nutrition? We can ask the same vital question for our planet Earth’s life. How the energy on the Earth should be produced, by a clean way or by a temporary and dirty way?

             Before answering that normative question, let’s look at the reality. According to Federico Rosei, in 2017 only 13 percent of the energy we used came from renewable energy sources (TED-Ed, 2017, 0:55). In other words, humanity still uses non-renewable energy sources mostly, although there are lots of options to produce energy cleanly. What are these non-renewable energy sources?

             According to Encyclopedia of National Geographic, Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will run out or will not be replenished in our lifetimes or even in many, many lifetimes. Most non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels. For this reason, the time period that fossil fuels formed (about 360-300 million years ago) is called the Carboniferous Period. Why are non-renewable energy sources so undesirable? Let’s look at some disadvantages of conventional energy sources.

             One of the main problems of the conventional energy sources is emitting greenhouse gases. According to United States Environmental Protection Agency, in USA primary source of the greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. Over 90 percent of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based, which includes primarily gasoline and diesel.

             One other problem of the non-renewable energy sources is they are depletable. Conventional energy sources are not only polluting the environment but also, they are running out day by day. Scientist estimate that we have consumed about 40% of the world’s oil. According to present estimates, at this rate we will run out of oil and gas in 50 years or so, and in a century for coal (TED-Ed, 2017, 0:22).

             It can be said that non-renewable energy sources both have less life and harm the environment. Humanity does need find to alternative sources in order to sustain life in all aspects. What can replace non-renewable energy sources? The answer is of course renewable energy sources as known as clean energy sources. They are abundant and have longer life than conventional energy sources. Also, they have no harm for the environment. Therefore, we can call them green energy sources. Which sources can be classified as renewable source?

             One of them is solar energy. Every year the earth’s surface receives about 10 times as much energy from sunlight as is contained in all the known reserves of coal, oil, natural gas and uranium combined. This energy equals 15,000 times the world’s annual consumption by humans (Hoagland, 1995, 170). It is clean, inexhaustible and abundant.

             Wind power is another source of energy. From its rebirth in the early 1980s, the rate of development of wind energy has been dramatic. Today, other than hydropower, it is the most important of the renewable sources of power. The UK Government and the EU Commission have adopted targets for renewable energy generation of 10 and 12% of consumption, respectively. Much of this, by necessity, must be met by wind energy. The US Department of Energy has set a goal of 6% of electricity supply from wind energy by 2020 (Leithead, 2007, 957).

             Hydropower is another clean energy source. Over the course of the early twentieth century, Europeans harnessed Alpine waterpower to generate more electricity than any other energy source save coal. In the wake of the Second World War, the United Nations estimated that over half of Western Europe’s electricity—one-quarter of the continent’s—was produced by Alpine waterpower (Landry, 2012, 7).

             Biomass is also a renewable energy source. Biomass energy is the use of organic material to generate energy. Biomass is just organic matter like wood pellets, grass clippings and even dung. Crops, like sugarcane and corn, can also be used to create biofuels. And because plant matter can be regrown, it’s a renewable source of energy. Biomass can generate electricity in a number of ways, but the most common is combustion which means burning agricultural waste or woody materials to heat water and produce steam, which spins turbines.

             Geothermal energy can be an alternative for non-renewable energy sources. Geothermal energy, in the broadest sense, is the natural heat of the earth. Temperatures in the earth rise with increasing depth. At the base of the continental crust (25 to 50 km), temperatures range from 200°C to 1,000°C; at the center of the earth (6,371 km), perhaps from 3,500°C to 4,500°C. But most of the earth’s heat is far too deeply buried to be tapped by man, even under the most optimistic assumptions of technological development (Muffler and White, 1972, 40).

             As we can see from examples above, there are lots of renewable energy sources that has no harm for humanity and environment. Instead of conventional energy sources, transition to renewable energy sources will be more beneficial for both present generations and future generations.

             That transition is also a concern for UN. One of the UN’s goals for 2030 is increasing substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix (United Nations, 2014). Also, one of the targets of UN is by 2030, enhancing international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promoting investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology (United Nations,2014). 


“Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy.” UNDP,

Hoagland, W. (1995). Solar Energy. Scientific American, 273(3), 170-173.

Landry, M. (2012). Water as “White Coal”. RCC Perspectives, (2), 7-12.

Leithead, W. (2007). Wind Energy. Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 365(1853), 957-970.

Muffler, L., & White, D. (1972). GEOTHERMAL ENERGY. The Science Teacher, 39(3), 40-43.

“Non-renewable energy”. National Geographic.

Rosei, F & Rosei, R. “Can 100% renewable energy power the world?”. Dec 2017.

 “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. United States Environmental Protection Agency

Evolution of Smart Cities by Using Innovative Ways

by Mehmet Hakki Uysal

Is the Rapid Urbanization Sustainable?

Globalization has made its presence felt in the cities by the incontestable effects of urbanization, especially in the last several years. The United Nations specifies that the population of the world will reach almost 10 billion in the next 30 years. As of yet, half of the current population of the world lives in cities. Cities are working across borders to build coalition networks and resist nationalist policies. Although cities occupy less than two percent of the landmass of the earth, urban residents consume over three quarters of the world’s natural resources and are responsible for green-house gas emissions (Marceau, 2008).

Best Recipe: Smart Cities?

The question still remains partially unanswered about the prospects of smart cities in most people’s minds. The main characteristics that a smart city needs to have are smart people, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment, and most importantly smart living. 

Eden Strategy Institute defines smart cities as “urban ecosystems that integrate digital technology, knowledge, and assets to become more responsive to users, improve city services, and make cities more loveable”. On the other hand, the Solar Impulse Foundation identifies a smart city as “an urban development using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) to provide useful information to effectively manage resources and assets. This includes data collected from citizens and mechanical devices, that are processed and analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transport systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste disposal, etc.”

As it can be deducted from the definitions that were mentioned above, developing three aspects of smart cities by using innovative ways makes a huge difference because as the population of the cities grows bigger and bigger, the above-mentioned exponential growth in urbanization/population growth is going to cause cities to struggle in very different ways to provide even basic services to its citizens. In that case, numerous consequences that result from the rapid urbanization and urban population growth such as scarcity of resources, limited infrastructure, air pollution, etc. come into being; operating cities in innovative or smart ways comes up as the only solution that may prevent the status-quo from being a large-scaled crisis. 

Connecting Smart Cities with Innovation

The general literature concerns itself with innovation in smart cities examines the innovation under three aspects: technology innovation, organizational innovation, and policy innovation (Nam & Pardo, 2011). On the other hand, the research of Smith & Taebel develops three dimensions of innovation being as management, technology, and administration (Smith & Taebel, 1985). 

The common features of all the studies regarding the innovative ways in developing smart cities emphasize the importance of not only technology but also the process of policy-making and organizational needs. In other words, exercises in deploying and using technology does not make a difference without the presence of a committed governance mechanism and smart citizens that are willing to work for creating solutions for their own cities. Governance mechanisms/policy-makers are certainly crucial for cities to become smarter. It has been argued that managerial innovativeness is the most challenging reason for the governments to adopt innovative ways in their administrative mechanisms (Moon & Norris, 2005).  

What can be done/are already made in terms of innovative smart cities: Pros & Cons

The challenges that come with the smart cities are undeniable. The inadequate infrastructure of most of the cities, the high expenditures, the security and privacy concerns that the citizens have, and the social dimensions of the smart cities in terms of comprehensiveness appear as the major ones among the others. However, it also appears that several governments managed to perfectly apply these innovative ways that were mentioned in the text into their cities. Singapore, London, Barcelona, San Francisco, and Oslo are among the smartest cities of the world in terms of transforming their cities into smart cities by using the means of innovation. Smart lighting, smart parking, phased traffic lights, green innovation, waste recycling, etc. are just some of the examples that these cities are currently using to make their city a better place to live in. 


Eden Strategy Institute. (2018). Smart City Governments Retrieved from

Marceau, J. (2008). Introduction: Innovation in the city and innovative cities. Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, 10(2-3), 136-145

Moon, M. J., & Norris, D. F. (2005). Does managerial orientation matter? The adoption of reinventing government and e-government at the municipal level. Information Systems Journal, 15(1), 43-60.

Nam, Taewoo & Pardo, Theresa. (2011). Smart city as urban innovation: Focusing on management, policy, and context. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. 185-194.

Smith, A. C., & Taebel, D. A. (1985). Administrative Innovation in Municipal Government. International Journal of Public Administration, 7(2), 149-177.

Solar Impulse Foundation. (2019). Retrieved from

Smart City Practices in Turkey and the Challenges Confronted

Tuğçe Gül Özbay 


This paper explores the works committed within the context of smart city planning and the probable obstacles facing while conducting these projects in Turkey. First of all, the historical background of the small city practices in Turkey will be mentioned.Secondly, actual activities carried out under the several Turkish municipalities and companies by explaining with examples and the future plans held by these authorities and corporations. Thirdly, it will concentrate on the ongoing questions around the smart city applications in Turkey in terms of feasibility,deficiency and effectiveness of the policies,and some solutions will be suggested for these difficulties in the handling of these projects. Finally, all of the referred issues in this paper will be evaluated in terms of actual circumstances of the smart city and significant points will be reemphasized in the conclusion part.

Keywords:Smart cities,challenges,companies,Turkey,municipalities


Although the smart city planning has shown up itself as a relatively new phenemenon,it has become widespread across the world in recent years because not only it has pledged to facilitate people’s everyday lives thanks to its components,but also it has aimed to surpass several problems in the face of increasing population, rapid urbanization,and global climate change. Along with its rising trend in various countries, Turkey has been influenced by this fashion,too and the municipalities and companies have started to work collaboratively so as to facilitate both citizens’ lives and the employees working for the projects done under the auspices of regional and central governments. So as to implement the smart city policies efficiently and to integrate them smoothly, data processing by “technology companies” is essential and it is carried through several technologies such as “5G/4G/3G, WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy” by the firms like Turkcell,Vodafone,Samsung,Microsoft and IBM;so that,marketplaces of the smart cities have continued to extend(Dener,2018:344).Nevertheless, smart city applications in Turkey still remains narrow as compared to other countries since their executions are relatively new and insufficient in Turkey owing to the some challenges originating from lack of funding and difficulties regarding applicability of the projects,even though many works have been put into practice by municipalities,corporations, and the ministry of environment and urban planning. Namely, Turkey has a long way to go for improving itself in smart urbanization. In this respect, this article analyzes Turkey’s experiences on smart cities and it tries to figure out why regional and national authorities encounter some troubles on track of being smart city by explaining with the actual experiences and examples materialized by the municipalities.Afterwards,it will make suggestions in order to remove these challenges.

What is “Smart City”?

Smart city refers to the urban places operating the supplies and assistances provided by local or national authorities in order to administer places easily and to enhance individuals’ standard of living via instruments of the smart city,thereby sustaining and ensuring the well-established system for humanity(Dener,2018:344). However, the concept of the smart city is not made up of technological aspect;it also includes public administration,the people of that city,and their relationship between each other,the city’ economic level and its surroundings(Akiner,2016:9). Therefore in order to strenghthen the place of smart city applications in urban places, the policies implemented within the context of smart city should be penetrated into the all aspects of the idea of smart city simultaneously. To achieve these goals, state institutions such as ministries,local governments,IT corporations ,and the NGOs should work coordinately among themselves.

Examples and Projects from Various Municipalities in Turkey

Despite the fact that Turkey is considered as a newcomer in terms of its start date in launching smart city projects, many of the municipalities,particularly in metropolitan areas,have put through lots of operations and they have continued taking significant steps on track of being smart cities.Above all, some cities,in other words big cities,attract much more attention in Turkey since they need more simplifications with respect to their growing population in order to ensure management of urbanization practices in cities themselves. Thus, mostly,practices and works in the metropolitan areas will be emphasized in this part. 

In Istanbul,along with the establishment of the Directorship of the Smart City under Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, a roadmap has been determined toward becoming smart city by acting with its stakeholders and initiatives;also, the Directorship has prepared a smart city proclamation appealing to all the Istanbulites(“Akıllı Şehirler”,2019). According to the strategies for Smart City,Istanbul concentrates on 3 main points:generating with stakeholders and citizens,using technology with innovative methods,and focusing on effectiveness. Therefore, the municipality has commenced a series of projects aiming to reach its sustainable development goals towards being a smart city: “Center of Environmental Control,Center of Monitoring Air Quality,Transportation Management Center,Traffic Signalization Systems,Adaptative Traffic Management System,iTaksi Management System,IoT Taxi Hats,Istanbul New Airport, Büyükçekmece Lake Afloat Solar Energy Station,Başakşehir Living Lab,Beyaz Masa,İBB Mobile Traffic Application” (Akıllı Şehirler Beyaz Bülteni,2019). Furthermore, while conducting these plans, the municipality has utilized “Big Data” so as to promote welfare of its people and to materialize its sustainable development goals (Gurcan&Dogan,2017). As Turkey’s most populous province also due to the influx of the Syrian refugees in recent years, and the center for tourism attraction, Istanbul has always been in need of funding and progress for resolution of problems and management of the whole mechanism of the municipal work; this growing population, while causing puzzles, constitutes a significant reserve in creating big data because it might be fruitful to figure out the fundamental issues of the city for the settlement of problems (Gurcan&Dogan,2017). For instance, “Full Adaptive Traffic Management System(ATAK)” founded by ISBAK to ease the whole transportation systems is so beneficial in terms of relieving traffic jam by checking the information obtained from data (Gurcan&Dogan,2017). Another example is the “Smart Parking Management System” targeting minimization of the carbon emission,thereby decreasing environmental harm and using the time well via employing car parks effectively through monitoring mechanisms (Gurcan&Dogan,2017).

Apart from Istanbul, Konya can be shown as a good model for becoming a smart city since it has reached to a vital degree with respect to its infrastructure;in addition to this, usage of contractless bank cards in transportation,small public transit and smart intersection systems,city information system and smart bicycle system can be considered as prominent ones (Erkek,2017). As a different example, with the establishment of the Air Quality Monitoring System in 20 diverse areas of the city, immediate data about sulphurdioxide(SO2) and particulate matter(PM10) is generated by measuring air quality via automatic devices (Erkek,2017). Besides,through the smart transportation system (ATUS),citizens are able to find out routes and current locations of the transportation lines and after how many minutes the vehicles will come to the stated stop by means of the website, mobile application,2-d barcodes,and SMS (Bilici&Babahanoğlu,2018).

On the other hand, Eskişehir can be shown as an example for smart buildings: Kocakır(Eskişehir Süperkent) was determined as the pilot area(planned for 80.000 people approximately)aiming to provide energy efficiency and zero waste for each building by making studies on allocation of water,materials and wastes,also fulfillment of all types of sustainability standards. For this project, the Directorate General for Infrastructure and Urban Transformation Services under the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning and the Rectorate of Istanbul Technical University worked cooperatively(Yılmaz,2017).

As for Izmir, it takes the lead in Intelligence Transport Systems in Turkey such as “full adaptive intersections,on-line traffic density maps for passengers/drivers,traffic lights specified for disabled people,and enforcement system to track speed/parking/lights”(U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration,2016?). In addition, within the scope of “İzmirNet Project” and “Smart Traffic System”, 245.000 meters and 376.000 meters cable were wired consecutively;so that, Izmir has had the longest fiber-optic network of Turkey. These systems enable the sharing of the whole information between Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and district municipalities effectively and fastly in digital environment (A.Ş.,2017).

Current Challenges and Recommended Solutions

No wonder there are a number of hardships needed to be addressed and overcome while performing smart city practices in Turkey. Essentially, in order for attaining the process becoming a smart city, it should contain the major components that are “Smart Economy,Smart Citizen,Smart Governance,Smart Mobility,Smart Environment and Smart Life”; however,implementations on these issues have not been put into practice integrally even though applications are made in itself separately (Bilici&Babahanoğlu,2018). Also, the arrangements around these core elements do not have an adequate acquaintance with one another;therefore, as soon as the constituent parts of smart city should stay in touch so as to assure its success and influence (Dener,2018). In addition, as long as formal authorities do not supply necessary data to the technology corporations and associations, collaboration among these organizations will not happen,thereby not being able to find quick and effective resolutions on the settlement of urbanization issues(Dener,2018:348). Furthermore, existing companies,municipalities and public institutions should adapt to themselves technological advancements and innovative solutions in the implementation of the smart city strategies all over the world. On the other hand, when carrying out studies for being a smart city, governmental, legitimate and ecological concerns should be also taken into account not to lose time instead of progress in organization and planning (Gurcan&Dogan,2017). Moreover, cities aiming to become smart cities should strive for the decline of unnecessary energy depletion and carbon emission by forming proper arrangements in accordance with these matters (Akiner,2016:14). 

Concluding Remarks

The concept of smart city has emerged as facilitative and effective factor in terms of dealing with problems of citizens and institutions due to the increasing population in urban areas by virtue of its technological and digital structures providing many benefits for people such as finding fast solutions for technical inconveniences and organizational problems,reducing environmental harms and reaching people’s needs immediately. So, Turkey has been affected by this trend taking hold of the whole world and it has started to actualize its policies in the direction of creating smart cities in company with formal/informal institutions,universities and companies by preparing plans and projects in various regions of the country. Nevertheless, Turkey still encounters some challenges with regards to completing its equipment. For instance, required data should be collected to determine the needs and complications of applications and public organizations,municipalities,and enterprises should work in cooperation in order to ameliorate the circumstances of the practices and to broaden the scope of projects across the country. Also, studies conducted as part of smart urbanization should not be limited to one aspect. Rather, each segment of smart city should be considered equally and in relation with each other.In brief, smart city applications in Turkey promises hope,yet there is much more progress to be made.


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