Local governments – cities, counties, states – are investing in technology. Why? Well, a number of factors drive local governments to take a smarter approach to their administration and development: limited budgets, increasing citizen demands, competition for investment and jobs etc. Balancing competing demands on a shoestring budget isn't easy. City leaders are looking for ways to sustainably transformation city functions such as transportation, healthcare, public safety, utilities, or governance, and in aggregate the city as a whole. And, they increasingly value technology as a means to such a transformation.
Fortunately, cities do not have to undertake this journey on their own, and they don’t expect to. In fact, according to Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Tracker Survey, local governments are more likely to expect increases in IT technical consulting than other industries (and more than governments as a whole): 38% of local government IT budget decision-makers expected a 5-10% increase in consulting spend and 2% expected an increase of more than 10%. Local governments are turning to the experts to help them figure out what this “smart city” thing means for them.
The picture is slowly coming into focus, and it’s a good one. This time last year I scolded Orange Business Services for not presenting a comprehensive smart cities strategy – particularly after having announced smart cities as one of its strategic pillars for the year. The announcement at their 2012 analyst event was not about a strategy; it was an announcement that they were going to create a strategy, and that they had appointed someone to do that. Well, Nathalie Leboucher has been in her role for 18 months now and progress has been made. Orange has developed a portfolio of solutions – mostly based on pilots across France and in the Middle East – and has announced several key partnerships. Yet there is more to do to develop a comprehensive message demonstrating that Orange “gets it” with regard to cities and can leverage all its assets to help cities (and capitalize on the opportunity).
Really, it is not. I was heartened to see that it doesn’t even make the oxymoron list, which does however include “government worker,” “congressional ethics,” and the rather hackneyed “military intelligence.” In fact, governments are innovating all over the place, particularly with the help of new technologies and a growing constituency of civic-minded developers.
One of my colleagues here at Forrester asked me today if I was planning to write a Playbook on smart cities. While we don’t have a government playbook currently in the works, we have a number of reports that share market trends and industry best practices. So I thought I’d pull together a list.
Here are a few examples of Forrester reports that illustrate government innovation. My series on smart cities includes:
Yesterday the Kenyan president broke ground on a new smart city development outside of Nairobi. The site of the new Konza Techno City is located in Eastern Kenya, 60 km from Nairobi on the Nairobi-Mombasa Road. It is 50 km from Jomo Kenyatta International airport and 500km from Mombasa and its ports. The greenfield site, purchased by the Ministry of Information and Communication and to be managed by the Konza Technopolis Development Authority, extends over 5,000 acres.
The primary goal of the new city is to develop the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing and Information Technology Enabled Services (BPO/ITES) industry – with estimated creation of 200,000 new jobs across the broad technology and related sectors over a 20-year period. But the primary objective is to create at least 82,000 jobs in the BPO sector as this is a key area for Kenya's Vision 2030. The new city will also house a university, recreation and entertainment venues, a film and media center, a financial district, as well as residential neighborhoods and the supporting infrastructure.
I was invited by the Moscow city government to participate in the Moscow Urban Forum, a conference designed to bring urban policy experts together to discuss opportunities for Moscow. Last week's event brought together primarily city leaders, urban planners, and architects with a few innovation experts and artists thrown in. There was a lot of talk of global competition and promoting the creative class in a city. But interestingly (for me at least), there seemed to be few from the ICT sector and little discussion of how to leverage technology across the city.
Despite the relative absence of technology as a main theme in the plenary sessions, there was a breakout on open data, which included city leaders from London, Barcelona, the Netherlands, and Moscow. The speakers all touched on some similar themes of internal use, external interfaces, a model of attracting business, and a comprehensive platform. These map to several of the themes of my presentation a few weeks ago at the Smart City World Congress in Barcelona — improved decision-making, transparency, greater citizen engagement, improved services, and economic development. Different cities highlight different aspects more than others. According to Sergio Jerez, Barcelona, for example, has focused on data as an opportunity to promote entrepreneurship. In his words, “open data is a new raw material for society and economic development.”
For some reason public safety has been a hot topic for me of late. I recently presented at ZTE’s Public Safety Summit in Dubai, where there was an audience of public safety officials and telecommunications ministry representatives from the Middle East and Africa. One element of the presentation that sparked interest and audience questions was citizen engagement.
We often think of public safety in terms of emergency services – police, fire, and ambulance; and, for many people, public safety first conjures up images of the police chasing bad guys – likely the effect of too many TV shows like Cops or Southland. But as I defined it in a previous blog, public safety covers a broad range of issues that touch a city’s inhabitants: crime prevention, traffic control, health services, public infrastructure management, and any of a list of emergency services including those for natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding or incidents like urban wildlife sightings as well as fire or riots.
In order to better act as the eyes and ears of the city – particularly given the mandate of doing more with less – many public safety organizations are returning to a kind of community policing – through better engagement with citizens. This isn’t a new concept.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Meeting of the Minds 2012, a conference dedicated to urban planning and sustainability, or smart cities. The conference was a great balance of academics and nonprofit advocates, city practitioners, and technology vendors. That is to say, it was exactly what it set out to be – a “meeting of the minds” – and was refreshing for those of us who spend a lot of time in the technology world.
The event started with several walking tours of San Francisco. I joined the Arts, Innovation and Sustainability Tour of Central San Francisco. The tour started with several LEED-certified buildings, including the headquarters of the tour’s host, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), a nonprofit, public-private collaboration with a mission of promoting urban innovation in the city. Next up was the 5M Innovation Project, which is itself an example of urban innovation.
I attended a Xerox analyst event last week in Grenoble, France, and was very impressed with both the setting and what I heard. Xerox is much more than the verb it was once associated with, and office workers no longer set off to get something “xeroxed.” As the CEO said in a recent interview, the younger generation doesn’t know Xerox as a verb. I mentioned having read this to a fellow analyst at lunch the first day of the event, and she looked at me quizzically. She didn’t know what it meant to “xerox” something. Indeed, there is hope for Xerox to recast itself as much more than a copier. However, there remains work to be done.
I spent a lot of time last week thinking about public safety. What is public safety? How do you achieve it? Well, it seems to me that it could be anything and everything; but that it’s contextual and different for all cities. In fact, three different “public safety” articles jumped out at me as I was reading the International Herald Tribune one morning:
Traffic defies a revolution. According to the article, there are about 2.2 million vehicles in Cairo, where licenses are generally awarded without a road test and drivers “often shrug off stoplights and traffic rules.” Road accidents kill about 1,000 people in greater Cairo each year, with ½ of those pedestrians.
When lions roam the backyard. While North American cities have long dealt with “urban wildlife” such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons and badgers, fast growing cities in Africa increasingly face incidents such as that described in the story – a lioness and her cubs who crawled under a fence into a residential Nairobi neighborhood.