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“Green” and “Smart” Cities Diffusion: Case of Songdo IBD

Posted By admin On May 21, 2013 @ 12:55 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Professional/Interdisciplinary Studies | Comments Disabled

Alexandra Lichá, Masters´ student

Sciences Po Paris


Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) is a new luxurious “green” and “smart” city near Incheon, Gyeonggi-do, scheduled for completion by 2015. It is the ultimate crystallization of the South Korean trend of moving towards “cyborg cities”1. Beyond integrating telecoms into the urban fabric in big cities like Seoul (3G/4G coverage, bus application for smartphones et cetera), Songdo IBD aims to take the urban smart grid innovation one step further, including not only the “usual” utilities but also services networks. This would include, among others, household remote control management through internet devices as well as remote healthcare, tutoring and service delivery requests in order to “achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability,” claims the official “Cisco Smart+Connected Residential Solution Video.”2

Initiated by the central government, the city is developed on 1,500 acres of land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea at the cost of 35 billion USD by a joint-venture between CISCO (Korea) and Gale International (USA). Songdo flagship’s former president Lee Myong Bak belief that the 21st century belongs to cities3. Songdo IBD aims to be an example of how South Korean housing issues could be resolved while following the current trend in urban planning towards environmental sustainability as set out by the OECD.

We interpret the Songdo IBD project as resulting from Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area’s move towards enhancing competitiveness. Thus, the “marriage” of the geographical location and the “green & smart” city concept seems to be no coincidence. The attractiveness of Songdo IBD is embodied mainly in the notions of access4 and luxury through innovation. First, the proximity to the “aerotropolis”5 of Incheon supports the image of Songdo IBD as an important hub in North East Asia; in other words, investing in Songdo IBD would allow prospective investors to profit from not only the positive spillover of clustering but more importantly the relative proximity to other business and financial centers such as Tokyo or Hong Kong. Second, Songdo IBD, as a master- planned sustainable city, seems to offer more than a policy solution to the economic crisis, climate

1 We use the concept of cyborg city according to GANDY, M. (2005), “Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City” in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29: 26–49.

2 “Cisco Smart+Connected Residential Solution Video”, available online at Cisco’s official channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTHf_GB8lP4 (Acquired February 25th, 2013).

3 LINDSAY, G. (2011) “Cities of the Sky” in The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26, 2011; available online http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703408604576164703521850100.html (Acquired on February 27th, 2013)

4 Attractiveness of access interpreted according to RIFKIN, J. (2001), The Age of Access; New York, NY: Tarcher 5 KASARDA, J. D. and G. LINDSAY (2011). Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus

and Girouxchange and population growth, but also a new lifestyle brand, marketed by CISCO as “intelligent living”: a city which is safe, clean (environmentally friendly) and luxurious at the same time and consequently increasing its perception as a desirable urban planning solution.

In this paper, we will analyse Songdo IBD as a case of public policy diffusion of the greenfield master-planned smart and sustainable urban planning solutions to tackle economic crisis, population boom and environmental sustainability. We will underline the various aspects that make Songdo IBD-like projects appealing for the policymakers, mainly using the concepts of competitiveness, global city and digital divide. We will then use Ostrom’s (2005) critique of the so-called “blueprint solutions”6 to point out negative externalities and possible policy failures related to both the diffusion of “green” and “smart” cities in general and the Songdo IBD case which would include, among others, the ecosystem changes of the area caused by the landfill, illustrating the paradox of what could be called “innovation diffusion without translation”.

6 OSTROM, E. (2005) “Robust Resource Governance in Polycentric Institutions” in OSTROM, E. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 255-288

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