Behind the concept of "smart communities" is the belief that the success of cities in the digital age will depend on widespread "community competence" in the use of new information technologies. Government officials tend to regard a so-called smart community as one where government services are offered online. Others view the idea more expansively, suggesting that a smart community is one where the Internet is integrated into nearly everything, from homes to schools to commercial buildings.
When the Internet began to take off as a public communications and commercial medium, some people were of the view that this would result in the death of cities. The argument was that if people could live anywhere they wanted and work in virtual space instead of being tied to a geographic location, they would most likely live anywhere but in the city, choosing to escape crowding, traffic jams, crime and social decay.
The Internet appears to be revitalizing many urban centers, fostering new districts of highly skilled and talented "new media" entrepreneurs and workers. These people tend to be young, and young people gravitate to the amenities of urban life. The new businesses are taking advantage of high-speed access to the Internet, which is available in high-density areas. And the fiercely competitive and rapidly evolving nature of Internet-based businesses mean that the old model of isolated, campus-like business complexes in suburbs is obsolete. The new model is one in which valuable employees are discovered in urban cafes, nightclubs, parties and other informal social gatherings. Not unrelated to these developments, many cities have experienced both improving economies and reduced crime.
In the public sector, there is a migration of government services to computer networks, including permitting and licensing, welfare, access to health information, education services, connections for isolated senior citizens and communications with police, firefighters, social workers and city officials.
To create smart cities, planners are faced with two very different tasks. The first is developing policies that assist these new industries, which are typically made up of small, rapidly growing companies. The second is to bring Internet access to low-income neighbourhoods.
Some cities like New York have developed "plug-and-go" buildings development of six "plug-and-go" buildings. Others have developed public-private partnerships to improve networking infrastructure. To extend Internet access to low-income communities in Los Angeles, the city's Information Technology Agency envisions a citywide network that goes to fire stations, libraries, police stations, recreation centers and schools.