Another interesting client meeting at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando with the CIO from a technology progressive city in the south of the US. The CIO told me that the mayor is pushing for the city to become smart (or smarter), and I couldn’t resist asking what smart means for them.
The answer was: anything that gives citizens the ability to self-serve without having to call or come to an office. I thought this was covered under e-government or on-line government, and I told the CIO that being a smart city government today means to focus on the sustainability of services, operations and also of IT initiatives..
Here is an example that is quite typical in open-government-friendly cities and helps explain the difference. Providing citizen with an application that allows them to report problems in the city, such as potholes, uncollected trash, broken lamps and so forth is a great idea (the See-Click-Fix model). However one has to think about what happens after the problem is instantly reported. Expectations are set – albeit implicitly – that the problem will be fixed, but if the adoption rate for the application is high, it is likely that the city is inundated with requests that it may be difficult to manage in line with citizens’ expectations, unless they have been set very clearly. What would be smart is to provide end-to-.end transparency of process ranging from reporting to repair, but making sure that the reporting citizen’s expectation are set almost instantaneously either by informing him or her how long it will take, or at least giving some insight about average times to repair as well as number of tasks in the pipeline.
So, much of this “smartness” goes back to better integration of processes, data and applications that was at the core of e-government and joined-up government.
What we at Gartner mean about smart government is an approach that focuses on generating sustainable value in every single aspect of IT management, from IT strategic planning to sourcing, from program management to operations, in an affordable way. So, if a citizen-reporting application can contribute to sustainability by reducing the cost of inspections, by reducing the volume of 311 calls, by contributing to more efficient maintenance planning or even to possibly engage citizens and neighborhood associations to help solve problems, then it is truly smart. If it is just to show that government listens but has no clear of sight to measurable performance improvements, then it is definitely less than smart.