It is already an established fact that Tel Aviv is one of the “smartest” eco-systems on the planet. As far back as 2014 it won the Smart Cities Award at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, triumphing over 250 of the world’s cities.
Despite competition from its neighbour Jerusalem, Tel Aviv still holds that position and is leading the “start-up nation” towards a more advanced stage in its own development.
Almost 10 years have passed since the publication of Dan Senor and Paul Singer’s Start-up Nation, which told the story of the strange phenomenon of small technology companies that, in Israel, seemed to bloom one after the other. Today, many of those companies have received investments and are building themselves into more advanced companies. Israel is becoming the “scale-up nation” and the ideas coming out of Tel Aviv – its beating heart – are attracting capital from all over the world.
The city itself was born as a startup, founded from nothing in 1909 by 66 families from Jaffa, lead by Meir Dizengoff who would become their mayor. They gathered on the beach and drew straws on which bit of land would be granted to each. Over the years they transformed a semi-desert region on the outskirts of Jaffa into a beautiful, modern, functional city.
Israel is becoming the “scale-up nation” and the ideas coming out of Tel Aviv – its beating heart – are attracting capital from all over the world
The architecture in the so-called “White City” is famous. Tel Aviv was originally designed to be a Garden City and, following the first migrations from Europe in the 20s and 30s, it became a something of an exposition of the 20th century's most avant-garde international architecture, with over 4,000 buildings constructed in the Bauhaus or Modernist styles.
With regard to urban planning, the city was designed to aid the sense of direction and avoid each area resembling the others. Which leads us to another of Tel Aviv’s callings: from the very beginning, the city was designed to be “smart”, built for optimised and innovative public services. As a result, the city is always seeking new technologies that allow it to confront the management issues a city faces in incredible ways.
It therefore came as no surprise when the Israeli Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel announced an investment of 70 million shekels (19 million dollars) into smart city initiatives all around the country, that will allow other urban centres to follow the White City’s example.
What really makes the city great is not just the efficient lighting system and organised traffic management schemes, but the direct involvement of its citizens
Tel Aviv sets an example of increasing appeal, even outside Israel’s borders. In fact, several mayors and investors from all over the world visit the city to take inspiration from the new technologies being used for waste, traffic and parking management and in cybersecurity.
Research company Gartner has today stated that it is not just the efficient lighting system and organised traffic management schemes that make the city great, but the direct involvement of its citizens, who must be at the heart of a city’s digital transformation. The city experience should be dynamic, alive, uninterrupted. Indeed, Tel Aviv (a city boasting – among titles – the highest number of dogs per individual in the world) is also leading the way in terms of what it has to offer young and single people. In recent years, it was also named the capital of gay-friendly tourism. Meanwhile, the innovative design and prestige materials used to build the new promenade reject the cliché that public spaces should be constructed in low-cost materials, due to fears of vandalism and general negligence.
The importance of Tel Aviv’s citizens to the city’s relationship with innovation has been obvious since the launch of DigiTel five years ago. This communications network includes a platform, accessed via smart card, that provides news, service updates and support personalised for each user’s profile. It was this very service that won Tel Aviv the Smart Cities Award in 2014.