Social Indicators Research

, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 1193–1216 | Cite as

City Indicators on Social Sustainability as Standardization Technologies for Smarter (Citizen-Centered) Governance of Cities

  • Maria-Lluïsa Marsal-LlacunaEmail author


The smart cities initiative encourages cities to improve their performance in the three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental, economic, and social. The smart cities movement is distinguished from sustainable cities by its use of intelligent technologies to attain sustainability. The smart cities world-class initiative is the first and only urban movement to generate interest on the part of all urban stakeholders. This includes citizens, governments, and even industry, which is the most interested party due to its opportunities to sell tech solutions and services to governments, in order to better serve citizens. However, although there are many technological means to help cities successfully perform in the three pillars of sustainability, social sustainability of smart cities is not yet fully considered. And this constitutes a lost opportunity to positively impact citizens’ lives. This research proposes a mechanism to account for the social pillar of sustainability, which consists of measuring the “citizen-centeredness” of city policies and local governance. This citizen-centric approach is measured by monitoring performance of cities in safeguarding citizenship rights. Accordingly, a set of indicators measuring the safeguarding of citizens’ rights in the city included in its fundamental text, The European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City, has been elaborated. Acknowledging the potential of market standards promoted by national and international standardization bodies such as the International Standards Organization or the National Standardization Association in Spain, proposed indicators have been designed to serve as a basis for what could be the first-ever social standard. Since market standards have an econometric nature, this research has been carried out in total fairness to city council responsibilities, only accounting for those which are mandatory, for which a budget is assigned. Finally, in the last section of the paper, conclusions show the triple-win—for citizens, private stakeholders, and city councils, that the inclusion of social standards brings into the governance of cities.


City indicators Smart cities Social sustainability Standardization Citizenship rights Urban policies 



This research is consuming a huge amount of work and dedication. The elaboration of indicators would not have been possible without the valuable contributions and help of this team, who disinterestedly met with me once a week during months, always active, helpful, and bringing lots of great ideas: Dr. Pere Soler (University of Girona, Director the Director of the Joint Master’s Program in Youth and Society (MIJS); Dr. Imma Boada (University of Girona, Director of the Institute of Informatics and its Applications); Dr. Joaquim Meléndez (University of Girona, Director of the Doctoral Program in Technology); Ms. Anna Serra (Lawyer at Red Cross Girona); Mr. Fran Quirós (Responsible of Cooperation Programs at Charity Girona); Mr. Lluís Puigdemont (Responsible of the Rights Department at Charity Girona); Dr. Montse Aulinas (Project Manager at Grup Fundació Ramon Noguera); Ms. Yolanda García (Responsible of social programs at Grup Fundació Ramon Noguera). Special thanks to Mr. Mark Segal, international consultant on democratization issues, for his valuable comments and general editing support during the elaboration of this research.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 109 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture and Urban PlanningUniversity of Girona Campus MontiliviGironaSpain

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