Getting Smarter? Yes. Public Sector Does Expect To Spend More On Technology.

Last week I was in Dubai and got a chance to visit GITEX, the largest IT event in the Middle East.  I was very interested and impressed to see the “Government” pod.  I’ve participated in many IT events including biggies like Mobile World Congress, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pod dedicated to governments’ use of IT.  But, the event in Dubai clearly was showcasing how governments were using IT to address public sector concerns.  I spent time in the UAE Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) booth hearing about their “e-Project” portal, which streamlines processes such as bidding and awarding of MoPW contracts, as well as the prioritizing, managing, and launching of specific projects.  The portal also facilitates the registration, licensing and evaluation of vendors.  The Ministry of the Environment and Water also recently launched a new version of its Web portal, which welcomes suggestions or complaints from citizens and employees, allows for public inquiries about all conservation and environmental projection issues, enables licensing for agricultural business activity or use of pesticides, and even includes a “contact the minister” feature.  I also spoke to teachers affiliated with the Dubai Ministry of Education who were thrilled to have just received new iPads from which they could take attendance, record grades and manage classroom schedules.  Many ministries and government agencies from across the UAE were represented.  Clearly Emirates cities understand the imperative of addressing public issues with technology solutions.  As populations grow – UAE population will increase 75% between 2010 and 2050 – and development continues, Emirati governments are getting “smart.”

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Join Forrester’s Smart Cities Tweet Jam, November 9th at 11am EDT/8am PDT/5pm CET

What’s your approach to the smart city? What's your role? Join Forrester Analysts, IT decision-makers, vendor strategists, and other Tweeters in our upcoming Smart Cities Tweet Jam – a Twitter-based dialogue about smart cities – on Tuesday, November 9th from 11:00am to 12:00pm EDT (8:00am to 9:00am PDT and 5:00 to 6:00pm CET), using the Twitter hashtag #smartcityjam. From Forrester, Doug Washburn (@dougwashburn), Usman Sindhu (@usmansindhu) and I (@jenbelissent) will be joining – and likely others. Doug and Usman have written about what “Smart Cities” mean for CIOs of all kinds – the CIO of the city, the CIO of a component city service or infrastructure, and the CIO who consumes or interfaces with smart city infrastructure. Take a look at their report, Helping CIOs Understand "Smart City" Initiatives. My upcoming report, "Capitalizing on Smart Cities," will look at opportunities for tech vendors, including a look at alternatives types of “cities” and innovative business models to increase the long-term viability of smart city initiatives. The report is not yet out, but some of the ideas have been shared in recent blog posts on the definition of a “city,” new business models, and

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Redefining The “Public” Sector?

Or maybe I should title this “When Public Sector Isn’t ‘Public’ At All.” In recent blog posts, I’ve written about how “cities” are not just those formed around a city hall, headed by a mayor or city council, and run by civil servants. Universities, company towns, and even amusement parks are launching innovative technology-based initiatives to address issues around transportation, public safety, administration, and even healthcare and education. However, it seems that many of the new cities being created as “smart cities” are even themselves not really cities as we know them (that’s a lot of “cities” in one sentence). Are they perhaps redefining the public sector altogether? 

Humor me as I ruminate on the definition of public sector. I usually think of the public sector as that which is government-owned, run by civil servants, and ultimately headed by an elected, appointed (or possibly a self-appointed) leader acting in the interests of the public or his/her constituency. Traditionally, at the core of a city is a public sector with many of these characteristics, with a mandate to provide basic infrastructure and services for the “public,” known in economic parlance as “public goods.” But, what if the city government itself is a private entity? 

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Taking Lessons From Smart Cities

On Sunday I will be participating in IBM’s Middle East and North Africa CIO Conference 2010, where I will present my research on Smart Cities. I’m looking forward to speaking with practitioners from the region to hear about their experiences in making their cities, organizations, and businesses more efficient through innovative technology-based initiatives. My presentation is entitled “Taking Lessons from Smart Cities,” because the real smarts lie in how these “cities” – whatever form they take – have overcome obstacles from budget battles to stakeholder standoffs. 

One aspect of those smarts lies in the business models that have enabled smart cities. With talk of municipal bankruptcy and public sector debt, it is not surprising that public sector IT decision-makers are not all that optimistic about their industry outlook. In Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey, Q2 2010, only 26% of public sector IT decision-makers considered their industry outlook to be good, while 70% – the vast majority – expected a bad year. The public sector came in next to last among other industry verticals.

That same survey, however, also revealed expectations of IT spending increases in the public sector: 37% of public sector IT decision-makers expected IT budgets to grow by at least 5%; 11% expected increases of more than 10%. Some of that spending is creatively financed. 

Several new business models have emerged to enable technology investment.

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IBM's CityOne Makes A Global Debut

CityOne, IBM's new Smarter City Simulation game, is interesting. But who will really play?

IBM introduced a new Smarter City Simulation game yesterday.  I took a few minutes to play around with it.  I love the idea.  It is SimCity meets Smarter City, and together they make CityOne.  Players are presented with challenges faced by decision-makers in Retail, Banking, Energy and Water industries within a city.  They start with a budget for each industry.  And, for each challenge, they are provided with a list of recommended actions and must choose among them.  Each action has a cost and associated benefits.  Some are more “right” than others, earning bonus credits and increasing customer satisfaction and other key performance indicators, as well as earning special awards.  A player likely knows not to pick the "Ignore the problem" option.  Yet, when in doubt you can also query a consultant for additional advice.   

My sense was that the “right” answers seemed pretty obvious.  However, that said, I certainly didn’t get a high score.  And, when I got to the end of my ten turns, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by the issues across these industries. 

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