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Cities and counties are turning towards the smart city task and asking the right questions

by Bettina Tratz-Ryan  |  October 10, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

For many local governments and cities, the initiatives around smart and connected communities are becoming more strategically defined, with many CIOs and IT leaders starting to orchestrate urban visions. During the Smart City Local Government Best Practice Breakfast at the Gartner’s Symposium and IT Expo in Orlando, Bill Finnerty (@digbfinn), Gartner Research Director, and I found a very collaborative and engaged IT executive community exchanging ideas around the issues of smart city implementations. Here are some of the conclusions from the discussion.

  1. How to develop sustainable government, municipal utility and agency collaboration around smart city vision, data exchange and engagement? The answers relate to the operational or strategic goals of a smart city vision. In the program development and execution, build relationships at the mission and technical levels, to ensure that process hand-offs, key performance indicators and digital platforms will be interoperable. Workshops and ideation meetings can facilitate the development of interest and the understanding of goals and pain points for all potential partners, such as disaster readiness, response time to 311 requests, data exchange etc. Win-win situations, for both citizen and program mission, provide sustainable smart city strategies.
  2. Who should be responsible for Smart City Leadership and how do you manage long-term smart cities challenges in short-term political cycles? As presented in Gartner research, success for smart city roll out resides in the ability to connect key performance indicators (KPIs) from the beginning of the initiatives, to ensure alignment of adequate resources and get traction. CIOs have the option to either moderate or manage smart city strategies, by connecting social and government goals with the ability in technology to execute and scale it across the citizenship. Cities like Boston have government appointed groups like Urban Dynamics to run it, developing interesting projects in a bimodal and innovative environment. Austin is using the think-tank Austin CityUP! to create inspiration around project needs and prioritization. Overall, CIOs need to include buy-in from all parties interested in smart city.
  3. How to include the needs and challenges of the community? Gartner has maintained, over the past years, that smart city is not about technology but about outcome-based services, defined for government mission and citizen engagement. There are many ways to start the conversation with the community, from surveys to townhalls to analysis of data. Understanding the community aspirations in light of the challenges and opportunities will build the foundation for the services to prioritize. Cities that for instance have an increasing elderly population in public housing will have other service requirements than communities with high opioid overdoses or crime rates. However, community resilience will play a major role in both cases, and smart city thinking will allow defining services based on records and outreach data. NYC’s Office of Technology and Innovation have invested significantly in developing community relationships to understand needs, educate on technology, the value of data and privacy and to establish a sustainable framework for smart cities initiatives.
  4. How to avoid vendor lock-in: A very dominant question during the meetings. Only with a good technology and service strategy can CIOs and leadership teams develop a balanced ecosystem of partners that supports value delivery and privacy. We are seeing an arising impatience of CIOs with vendors positioning product solutions instead of an outcome based approach. Open source API development and a focus on open data standards based on FIWARE or TMF Forum’s “City as a Platform” are emerging as formats for an urban digital government technology platform. A platform approach creates agility in the “system of system” approach, providing a mechanism for orchestrating data exchange, facilitating component upgrades and swapping or enabling multiple open standards based vendor solutions.
  5. How can we avoid big data turning into bad data? Can data sharing and data governance help? CIOs are evaluating data sharing and data governance as a strategy and methodology to avoid big data turning into bad data. Many IT departments obtain data only from some agencies, with other agencies either not ready or not interested. Data governance in smart cities allows a framework to assess data orchestration, data value, data management and data oversight for a transparent and valuable data exchange that in the end honors data privacy and security issues. Gartner’s smart cities analysts are developing a framework for this.
  6. How to create safer cities by including emergency response, public safety and community resilience together, especially after the natural catastrophes like hurricanes, flooding, storms and acts of violence? Safety is not only a function of video surveillance but also how the community experiences the collaboration and work with law enforcement, emergency response, non-government organizations and the community leaders. The “feeling” of safety is becoming an attribute of communities, impacting not only the way residents react in emergencies but also prevention and mitigation steps taken by both the government and residents.

Local government and cities are at various stages of digital or technology implementation to turn to the smart city goals. In order to reach sustainable impact, CIOs and IT leaders in government also have to reflect on how deep the digital maturity of the community and their stakeholders is that they want to support with intelligent solutions, analytics and artificial intelligence. Therefore, there is an intense debate amongst CIOs, their community and political leadership on how to increase digital equity and understanding across the population to guarantee inclusion for all government services. In  the end: Smart city and communities is a journey of collaboration and engagement, with technology allowing  new means of access, understanding and service delivery.

If cities want to be part of this discussion, join me at the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo Europe in Barcelona November 5th to November 9th.

Category: 

Tags: citizen-engagement  data-governance  digital-government  smart-city  smart-government  

Bettina Tratz-Ryan
Research VP
14 years with Gartner
17 years in IT industry

Bettina Tratz-Ryan is a research vice president in Gartner Research, leading the research agenda for environmental sustainabity that is developing recommendations for technology and service vendors and software providers worldwide. Read Full Bio




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