The promise of new citizen-centric government services enabled by social and mobile technologies and often access to government data is fast becoming reality — and has changed the way in which government organizations and their constituents engage.
Open 311 initiatives have spread across the US, and the equivalent non-emergency access initiatives have gained traction in other geographies as well. However, citizen engagement is not just about potholes and power outages; it is increasingly about the long tail of needs and interests. Public access to data and the ease of application development have facilitated the development of new applications and services. As a result, specific groups, however large or small, can develop an application to serve their purposes. Or applications can be developed for a specific project and may only be used for a couple of months, or may only be used by a niche audience.
I have had several lively conversations this week with vendors working to enable open data and new tools for constituent engagement. As an example, ESRI brings maps and the value of GIS to this explosion of citizen services. People like to visualize things, and seeing data represented on a map helps identify patterns and create a context for the data. That makes it easier to understand and easier to act on. ESRI and their partners have worked with a wide range of government organizations on creative ways to engage constituents — both citizens and businesses.
In my last blog I asked the question, “What’s it take to be a smart city?” One of the critical elements lies in smart governance. Smart governance takes leadership, coordination, and collaboration. (Take a look at my recent report, "Smart City Leaders Need Better Governance Tools.") Part of this leadership is finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to intractable problems – and that often lies in engaging constituents for input on the problems and feedback on the solutions. As Charles and I were working on another project, we came across a great example of a US state looking outside the box to solve a real and frustrating problem faced by its citizens.
What’s it take to be a smart city? Is it smart transportation, such as sensors in parking spaces that call out to drivers like sirens calling to Ulysses as he headed back to Ithaca? Or parking meters sending SMS messages to alert those parked that their time is up, like a baby bird calling to be fed? Is it smart buildings that turn the lights on when you enter or off when you leave? Is it smart waste management? Is it smart energy grids? Is it smart water systems? Or smart administration? All of these help make city services and operations more efficient. But the real key to being smart is to have an overall management system that allows leaders to coordinate across these smart systems, capturing and sharing the data generated and using it to inform new policies and city programs. Smart cities require good – “smart” – governance and the processes and tools that enable it.
Increasingly, city leaders are adopting enterprise management practices – and technologies – in order to improve city governance. Smart city leaders:
Match budgeted spending with performance objectives.
Adopt enterprise apps such as EAM, ERP, and CRM in shared or cloud models.
Appoint professional operational and IT management to coordinate.
Implement regular process and performance reviews – and supporting technologies.
Establish integrated reporting for greater transparency.