Tomorrow’s city hall: A catalyst for the digital economy

Digital and big data are shaping how digital cities evolve, helping City Hall to deliver public service for the future.


Urban economies have traditionally relied on a city’s prowess as a hub for the physical trade of goods. Today, data is re-inventing how economies function and how people live and work.

The data captured by City Hall is a resource and an asset. It is an exciting opportunity for cities to better serve citizens and support new job creation.

Cities need to become digital hubs and pro-actively nurture their digital economies by creating an urban information marketplace where city authorities, experts and the private sector collaborate and co-create, using data in innovative ways to tackle cities’ major challenges and transform service provision, improve the lives of citizens and strive to do more with less.


Key Findings

For cities to deliver this data-driven future, there are three key steps:

  1. Invest in digital and data leadership

City leadership will need to map out the skills they require to deliver their digital transformation, plugging the skills gap and putting in place the right governance arrangements to ensure leaders have the mandate to be effective.

Chicago and San Francisco have appointed Chief Data Officers, who employ smart technologies to transform the way that cities operate. Smart cities match supply and demand more effectively, providing services that predict demand rather than just reacting to it.

New York’s City Hall appointed a Chief Analytics Officer to find and use data from across the city’s government to better inform how front-line workers operate.

Being data-driven is not primarily a challenge of technology; it is a challenge of direction and organizational leadership.
MIKE FLOWERS, New York’s first Chief Analytics Officer
  1. Break down internal data silos

Smart cities generate vast amounts of data but most of it is only used for a department’s narrow purpose. Combining data in new ways can have a profound influence on the ability of the city authority to serve its citizens.

Leaders at City Hall need to examine their data governance framework, considering the need for approaches such as Centres of Excellence, which span different departments and cross traditional organizational barriers.

New York’s DataBridge involves more than 20 city departments, contributing information to a common database that all can access—and works by adopting a common standard for sending and receiving information to the central repository.

After Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, DataBridge helped City Hall to combine information from six different databases, giving a much more nuanced picture of where efforts were needed.

Combining data in new ways can have a profound influence on the ability of the city authority to serve its citizens.
  1. Liberate data through new partnerships and collaborations

Smart cities need to explore new kinds of partnership — with the private sector and academia — to liberate and drive value from data. Open data is a significant opportunity. Providing searchable data sets encourages collaboration to solve urban problems.

Boston City Hall’s Office of New Urban Mechanics builds connections between entrepreneurs and government – rolling out rapid and inexpensive pilots to help develop solutions often based on shared data. The city’s Street Bump app uses sensors in mobile phones to detect uneven roads and potholes, speeding maintenance decisions and improving spend.

Singapore’s Smart Nation strategy aims to drive significant change across government and society. A Smart Nation Program Office will ensure a whole government approach, with departments collaborating and driving towards a common goal. City Hall will roll out more than 1,000 sensors; improve cyber security; and seek to foster digital skills.

We are a leading city today but other leading cities like San Francisco, New York, London, Sydney, Shanghai, they are attracting capital, talent, ideas. They are building outstanding urban environments. We have to move ahead with them and stay up there amongst the leading cities of the world.
LEE HSIEN LOONG, Prime Minister of Singapore


Looking ahead: a bright future for the digital city?

Cities and their citizens are shaped by the forces of innovation and technology. And today, it is digital technologies that are shaping our urban way of life.

In an increasingly urban world, digital technologies and big data will be critical for creating tomorrow’s citizen-centric City Hall. Citizens have taken enthusiastically to the benefits that technology affords them in their everyday lives, the time is ripe for city leaders to move with the times and embrace the digital age. To remain relevant to their constituents’ evolving needs, City Hall needs to operate as an information broker: catalyzing their local digital economies and delivering public service for the future.


Jen Hawes-Hewitt

Jen Hawes-Hewitt
Global Cities Management Consulting Lead

Mail to Jen Hawes-Hewitt. This opens a new window.
Follow Jen Hawes-Hewitt on Twitter. This opens a new window. @jenhaweshewitt
Jen Hawes-Hewitt