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Smart employees for smart cities official project poster

Smart cities are complex ecosystems that use information and communication technologies to help their citizens and organisations deal with the challenges of urbanisation, safety, greening, resilience, and sustainability. Building smart cities is a process of a long and laborious transformation. But this should not be viewed only as a technical challenge – but rather as a movement that aims to create citizen-centred ecosystems that improve people’s quality of life and stimulate economic growth.

Smart city ecosystems truly include everybody - comprising of people, organisations and businesses, policies, technologies, legislation, and processes that are integrated and go hand in hand with one another to achieve the desired outcomes. 

“Although we have been working on the development of these smart new ecosystems for several years now, it is quite recently that we discovered that the people factor was not considered to a sufficient extent”.  

We realised that even though billions of euros were being invested in technological or urban development, the effort spent in developing the necessary workforce with the skills to fulfil this vision, was simply not enough. As we routinely say, we are “living in a software-enabled society and we cannot risk it. 

Since our lives depend surprisingly so much on the smooth operation of digital services, we need to reassure ourselves and enable smart city employees to have the knowledge, competences, and skills that are required to manage these complex ecosystems.   

How does the SmartDevOps project help to bridge this gap? 

DevOps is a culture and a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops), aiming to shorten the software life cycle and provide continuous delivery of high software quality.

These observations were our motivation behind the SmartDevOps project,  funded by Erasmus+ KA2.(*) The SmartDevOps project developed three new smart cities professions, an extensive list of smart cities-related competences, and organised an extensive pilot training that was attended by hundreds of trainees, a network of experts, and a community of practice at the European level.  

In this project, we addressed the main question regarding the need of specialised professionals for the development of smart cities and whether this specialisation constitutes one or more new, discrete profession(s). The research conducted in the context of the SmartDevOps project proved that that are three new job roles required for smart city professionals, namely: Smart City Planner,Smart City IT Manager, and Smart City IT Officer. Of course, the above list is far from exhaustive since we need to study the smart cities related professions more, and cover areas such as smart cities resilience, security, open data, etc.

The project also developed the first version of the Smart Cities Body of Knowledge (SCBoK), a freely downloadable resource. It is an attempt to systematically approach the topic of the competences required by smart cities. Furthermore, it offers curricula that can be used to build this required knowledge coherently and systematically.  

Smart cities ecosystems are complex, self-organising, and dynamic systems – and they are constantly evolving. As such, employee development and skills for smart cities has to receive sufficient attention and be approached systematically.  

What else needs to be done? 

Actions like recognition of the new professional needs, developing new job profiles, creating curricula and specialised training programs, setting up certification schemes, promoting these new professions needed for smart cities’ creation, etc., can improve the current state-of-play immensely.  

It is also equally important to realise that the only way to preserve (and even increase) the quality of our cities, and consequently of our lives, is to “win the race for talent”. Winning this relates to both our obligation and ambition to make our European cities remain the best places for their citizens in the world.  

(*) The Smart DevOps project was funded by Erasmus+ KA2, under project number 601015-EPP-1-2018-1-EL-EPPKA2-SSA.  

About Panos Fitsilis

Professor gr is a Full Professor in the Business Administration Dept. of the University of Thessaly, Greece. He has extensive project management experience with the development and deployment of large IT systems and extensive management experience in various senior management positions. His research interests include Smart Cities, Smart Factories (Industry 4.0), Business Information Systems, Educational Technology, Competences and Skills Development for the 21st century, etc. He is the author of numerous books including Smart Cities Body of Knowledge 

About the University of Thessaly 

University of Thessaly (UTH) is a large regional European University located in Greece.  UTH is a dynamic higher education institution that offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees in several areas of study.  Further, UTH having realized the radical transformation that digitization and greening is bringing to all sectors of the economy is among others heavily investing in new curricula focusing on the digital economy, studying new professions and promoting modern educational approaches. An example of this strategy is the SmartDevOps project that created new occupational profiles for smart cities professionals. 

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