Making a city "smart" is emerging as a strategy to mitigate the problems generated by the urban population growth and rapid urbanization. Yet little academic research has sparingly discussed the phenomenon. To close the gap in the literature about smart cities and in response to the increasing use of the concept, this paper proposes a framework to understand the concept of smart cities. Based on the exploration of a wide and extensive array of literature from various disciplinary areas we identify eight critical factors of smart city initiatives: management and organization, technology, governance, policy context, people and communities, economy, built infrastructure, and natural environment. These factors form the basis of an integrative framework that can be used to examine how local governments are envisioning smart city initiatives. The framework suggests directions and agendas for smart city research and outlines practical implications for government professionals.