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Vote Wisely

As the drum beats roll on in Ukraine, on the South China seas, and in many other parts of the world, French politicians, for a majority, are returning to their lands to boast about their accomplishments and to win the office of mayor, or deputy mayor -- more or less transitory because of the new law on the cumul des mandats -- that will necessarily force them to choose soon between the parliament and the town hall.

In a world that is becoming increasingly more urban and where metropolitan areas are progressively more important, municipal and regional elected officials are recovering a growing part of powers that national leaders are losing without suffering from the same uncertainty. The holding of local elective office should attract and retain the best politicians. The forthcoming municipal elections, within a month from now, should offer the opportunity for exciting and fruitful debates on future ways of living together.

Unfortunately, in France, we are still very far from it; only personal squabbles and party differences can be heard. The only local issue that seems, for now, to succeed in attracting widespread attention is that of taxis. Yet it's time indeed to talk about the major challenges of the "smart city."

Because for the next six years, the main challenge facing the new town councilors will be how they embrace new technologies that will make deep changes to life in the city, regardless of the size of the municipality.

The Internet of things, cloud computing, the semantic web and big data today make the change in urban transport a real possibility (through the gradual disappearance of private vehicles, replaced by public transport, taxis and VTC -- car services -- all managed digitally); the improvement of the circulation of tourists and commuters (through wireless sensor networks, for car-park management); the opportunity for them, in comfortable transport, to study, enjoy themselves and discuss; the reduction in housing costs and in energy and water wastage (through a control of consumption of every household); the reduction of local taxes and the improvement in quality of public services (by providing most of the municipal information and services through the Internet, paid using a unique digital smart card, in particular for the elderly, the disabled and people looking for a job); the improvement of safety and quality of life (through the permanent monitoring, in every location, of the level of pollution, temperature and sunlight); helping make towns and cities environmentally and socially sustainable; and preventing loneliness, (by organizing on the social networks debates and discussions with neighbors having the same areas of interest).

Let it not be said that it sounds like science fiction. A very large number of companies already know how to render these services. In many municipalities of the world, of all sizes, these projects are under way and ready to be installed, en masse, in the context of long term programs. One is in the United States: Seattle, Boston, Portland, Chicago, Mountainview; another in Europe: Vigo Santander, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Southampton, Helsinki; and elsewhere: Masdar, Dubai or Yokohama. In France, some very modest attempts do exist in Issy les Moulineaux, Lyon, Villeneuve-d'Asq and Angouleme. But nothing serious was announced in election programs, despite some high-flown talk on the subject. At any rate, nothing at the level of performance of the fabulous changes that the staggering increase in the computing speed of machines and their data storage capabilities will make possible over the next six years.

Voters must therefore, in the coming weeks, ask from the candidates to provide them with a more detailed program on these subjects; how the largest traffic capacity over networks will be obtained; how and when they intend to implement the new intelligent street furniture, necessary to interact with the nomadic digital tools available to everyone today. And a number of other subjects.

Vote wisely. And, if you do not, you only have yourself to blame.