It's obvious that different cultures will approach concepts differently, but there is a fundamental chasm between the way that the term “smart cities” is understood in the West and in the East.

Specifically, in Europe, North America and Latin America, creating a smart city tends to mean adapting already existing cities to be smarter; and "smart" encompasses not only more advanced technology, but also making cities that work better for everyone who lives and works in them. Asian smart cities, on the other hand, often focus on building new, super-high-tech cities from scratch — and more often than not, they are cities built for an exclusively well-to-do citizenry.

This month, in addition to other smart cities news, we'll look at some controversy around India's high-tech urban ambitions, learn about Russia's first stand-alone smart city and see how Latin America is planning to follow a more European model.

— Emily Liedel

Around 450 meters of the Liesingbach river that runs through Vienna is being converted back to it's natural state, which means sloping river banks with trees instead of something that resembles a concrete drainage canal, Wien Smart City reports (German). Not only will this make the stretch of river in Vienna more inviting for residents, it will also attract native plants and animals and provide better protection from flooding.

India is starting a major push towards creating 100 smart cities around the country. But at whose expense? A brochure handed out at a Smart Cities conference earlier this year outlined that the police would need to intervene to ensure that poor people — some of whom will have lost their farmland so that the smart city could be build — do not enter the area and do not take advantage of the modern infrastructure, Global Voices reports. That is not a vision for a smart city that most Western urban planners would endorse.

Russia's first smart city project is about to break ground 10 kilometers from the capital. The new, high-tech metropolis named "Mortongrad Putilkovo" will be completed around 2030, Komsomolskaya Pravda reports (Russian).

Gothenburg (see main picture) is Sweden's second-largest city and, according to the most recent Europe-wide award, the most accessible to people with disabilities in Europe. The city has made accessibility in housing, public places and education a top municipal priority. It has created mobile apps that allow disabled people and their friends and relatives to search for properly equipped playgrounds, as well as comprehensive inventory of all the housing and public transportation options that are accessible for the elderly and disabled.

This is an excerpt of our Smart Cities newsletter. To receive the full version each week, go to VIP signup here.