The word is that promise of sCommerce (social commerce) and fCommerce (Facebook commerce) is more speculative than proven. What about the role of social media in government and governance? Mayors, other city leaders, and local organizations increasingly communicate and interact with their constituents via social media.
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.
Several months ago I hosted a roundtable discussion with public-sector CIOs from multiple Singapore government agencies. We focused specifically on social computing — how it will alter the way public-sector agencies interact with constituents and each other. While the focus was on Singapore, the key takeaways are universal, hence my interest in sharing the findings here.
In the midst of discussing the usual suspects — concerns about security, privacy, risk management, audit, and compliance — we came to a consensus on some key points:
Clearly identify what services or information constituents actually want, not what the agency wants to deliver. A poorly implemented social computing app risks becoming a glorified suggestion box, or worse — “next-generation knowledge management.” In other words, a costly solution looking for a problem. Focus instead on how to actively engage users — using advanced analytics and business intelligence (BI) to deliver value. In some cases, it is as simple as asking instead of assuming.
Combining formal and informal data will be a major challenge.The more effective agencies are at encouraging voluntary, “opt-in” style usage, the more challenging it will be to segregate user-provided information and data from more formal, agency-provided data that must be rigorously maintained and secured. Take this information “sourcing” issue into account when documenting data management policies.
Forrester expects two different patterns of urbanization will emerge in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan (APEJ), each with its own rate of technology adoption, maturity of implementation, and ways in which cities will use technology to support urbanization. Forrester defines two categories of urbanization: cities in countries with low-to-moderate urbanization (LMU), and those with high urbanization (HU). Each of these is prevalent in a different set of countries, has different technology requirements, and will emphasize a different set of technology underpinnings for its eGovernment efforts.
LMU cities will focus on automation of basic tasks. LMU cities will remain focused on basic automation and bridging the digital divide, tilting heavily toward hardware, platform software, and packaged applications.
HU cities will focus on more efficient ICT infrastructure. HU cities will be more focused on upgrading legacy systems and modernizing the existing infrastructure to support open government and shared services concepts.
Nevertheless, Forrester predicts that seven technologies will be common to all cities to underpin their efforts to grapple with urbanization:
Cloud Computing: From Hype To Reality For Cities.
Mobile Apps And Devices: Faster Link-Up With Citizens.
Virtualization: A First Step Toward Cloud.
Social Media And Collaboration: Opening Up Two-Way Communication.
Analytics: Making Informed Decisions.
GIS: Beyond Mapping.
Security Software And Systems: From Information To Physical Security.
Smart cities come in all shapes and sizes. There is not one definition of smart. Think about the terms “street smart” and “book smart.” When I think about the initiatives or reforms that we’re seeing across cities, I’ve started categorizing them along these lines. New initiatives like sensor-based parking and traffic optimization fall into street smart, while streamlining of back office processes and applications tend to be more book smart. And as we know, it takes all kinds.
The hype of smart cities, however, has focused on the sexy new kid on the block. Everything sensor-based and “intelligent” has gotten top billing from vendors. However, many cities need to start cracking the books first.
Here are a few ways to start:
Rationalization of back office applications. Sprawling or at least siloed IT infrastructure and business apps can be upgraded and consolidated. Several CIOs I’ve spoken with have mentioned that this is a big challenge. Department heads don’t want to give up control over their domain, as they see it. Big cities find themselves with multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems running across different departments in a city: Parks and Recreation licenses ERP from one vendor; Public Works subscribes to ERP services from another; Transportation manages their fleet with yet another.
We often hear of city comparisons. In my many years in Russia, I must have heard that St. Petersburg was the Venice of the North hundreds of times. Another is Paris. How many times have you heard “[Insert city] is the Paris of the [insert region]”? Actually, a quick search reveals that there are at least 11 cities that are “the Paris of the East.” Some are quite surprising:
Russian IT decision-makers are optimistic about their prospects for the next 12 months, according to Forrester’s Global Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2010 – and, surprisingly, much more so than those in other countries -- 67% reported that their prospects are good versus only 52% in the US and 35% in the UK. On my recent trip to Moscow to deliver the keynote speech at Cloud Russia 2012, I looked for that optimism, and the root sources of it. There are certain obvious sources. The price of oil is high, and Russia is an oil exporter. The 2014 Winter Olympics are bringing significant investment to the region. But most importantly the political dialogue is focused on innovation and technology. That, in Russia, counts for a lot.
Given my own research agenda, I investigated the interest in public sector technology adoption and “smart city” initiatives. The answers were mixed. As elsewhere vendors are pushing solutions to improve transportation, energy efficiency and municipal administration. But many of those technology vendors did not share the optimism of the IT decision-makers for their own prospects in Russia. They did not see Russian cities as highly motivated, or incented, to get smart.
Twenty three years ago I arrived with a backpack and my best friend. Last week I went back. The city was as welcoming this time as it was the last, although the circumstances of my visit – and certainly my accommodations – were vastly different.
Pamplona is a city of about 200,000 inhabitants in Navarra, in the North of Spain. It is best known for the running of the bulls or, as it is known locally, the Festival of San Fermin, which many of us were first introduced to in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
The bulls were not what brought me to the region this time (although they were the principal reason for my first visit). Last week I participated in e-NATECH, a tech industry forum organized by ATANA, an association of local ICT companies in Navarra. From what I saw in both the audience and across the city, Pamplona is clearly a front-runner in terms of ICT (and bulls as I recall from my first visit).
In my last blog, I discussed the 3-1-1 initiative, which was in many cases the instigator for creating citizen services portals and a channel not only for delivering services but also for registering requests and complaints as feedback into the system. However, the interaction doesn’t stop there. Not only are cities soliciting feedback on citizen services, cities and other public agencies are now also providing data and APIs to enable citizen-developers to create applications themselves – bringing even the creation of citizen services directly to the citizens themselves.
As I’ve been researching my upcoming report on smart city governance, the topic of integrated customer call centers keeps cropping up. What is 3-1-1, and what does it mean for city governance?
In the US, the telephone number 3-1-1 was reserved by the FCC for non-emergency calls in 2003, and cities and counties across the country have since implemented comprehensive call centers to facilitate the delivery of information and services, as well as encourage feedback from citizens. Access has since extended beyond just the phone to include access through government websites, mobile phones, and even social media tools such as Twitter or applications such as SeeClickFix or Hey Gov.
As a means of background, 3-1-1 services are generally implemented at the local level – primarily at the city or county level – with examples of calls including requests for: