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Just how smart are smart cities?

It's time for digital government to ask citizens

Overview

As we enter the digital age, ‘smart cities’ provide a glimpse of the future, but a big gap between the hype and the reality remains. 

Many smart city initiatives apply technology-driven solutions to yesterday’s problems and fail to re-create systems and services designed with their digital citizens in mind.

We believe city and digital government leaders must demonstrate clear value, tangible outcomes and engaging experiences for their citizens, businesses and visitors – delivering public service for the future.

“It’s time for cities to take the reins from the technology industry and lead the next generation of smart city initiatives from an outcome perspective that is centered on the citizen.”

Background

Early adopters rarely grasp how things might work in the future.

They often use new technology to speed up existing processes, instead of creating new way of doing things.

For example, the advent of work processing software was first seen as a tool to speed up office typing pools as opposed to replacing them entirely.

Today, smart city initiatives are often doing the same thing, thinking in evolutionary instead of revolutionary terms. Few have grappled with the kind of radical re-invention necessary to find new ways of running a city and providing value to citizens.

Where cities have started to do this, the results are impressive, reaching across old silos to drive mission productivity for the whole organization. For example:

Where cities have started to do this, the results are impressive, reaching across old silos to drive mission productivity for the whole organization. For example:

Analysis

If our cities are to meet the challenges of tomorrow, the smart city agenda needs an overhaul. Better technology to support business as usual isn’t enough.

Better technology to support business as usual isn’t enough. By focusing on the citizen and real outcomes, city leaders can reinvent their institutions, improve services and build the infrastructure of the digital age – delivering public service for the future.

Urban areas that fail to make the transition will be, like the typing pool, abandoned; but those that embrace a human-centered approach to their digital government strategy will thrive in the information era.

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