In the Industrial Age, cities knew their role: help create infrastructure, production facilities and marketplaces for industrial goods and services. In the Information Age, many are still defining and differentiating themselves.
Seventy percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. These urban centers are competing intensely for global investments and best talent. 1 Meanwhile, the digitally enabled information economy is leveling the geographic playing field, reducing traditional advantages for port cities and trading hubs.
In the race to build strong urban information economies, some municipal leaders are buying into a “Smart Cities” vision. Accenture believes that if such a vision makes technology the goal, a city may be “smart” but still unable to attract the quantity and caliber of residents it needs to thrive. Accenture believes technology should be the means of delivery, not the objective. Cities that prioritize technology are unlikely to maximize the value of their “smart initiatives” and may struggle to move from pilot to scale.
Forward-thinking cities are taking a step back—thinking carefully about what citizens want and investing in novel and more effective ways of delivering those outcomes. They’re putting people—not technology—at the center of public service strategies and investments and following the lead of other consumer-driven industries.