Austin Zwick, assistant teaching professor and program director of the B.P.S. in Policy Studies program at the College of Professional Studies at Syracuse University, co-authored the paper “Examining the Smart City Generational Model: Conceptualizations, Implementations, and Infrastructure Canada’s Smart City Challenge” with Zachary Spicer, an associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration at York University. The article was published in the Urban Affairs Review.


Cohen’s Smart City Generational model has been the basis of understanding for the evolution of the Smart Cities movement. However, how does this model align with practitioners’ conceptualization of the term? Our research focuses on Infrastructure Canada’s Smart City Challenge (SCC). Through 14 primary interviews and 20 finalist applications, this research reveals that practitioners overwhelmingly understand Smart City building as a government-driven, data-centric endeavor (Smart City 2.0), as opposed to being about vendor transactions (Smart City 1.0), resident engagement (Smart City 3.0), or community co-creation (Smart City 4.0), where the specific technology is of secondary importance to project objectives. We conclude that, rather than moving through distinct generations, the smart cities movement should be understood as a gradual process of municipal public administration modernization as local governments are becoming increasingly savvy and experienced about contracting with technology firms to address urban problems.