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.
I love the idea of the Edmonton’s Planning Academy, which offers planning courses to anyone in the city. What a great way to get citizens involved in the complex challenges of city planning! It made me want to live in Edmonton. OK, so maybe I’m kind of addicted to school, and taking classes (corporate learning programs, continuing studies programs and even the Red Cross have seen me in their classrooms in recent years). But really, this one looks so cool I had to write about it.
The City of Edmonton’s Planning Academy’s goal is to “provide a better understanding of the planning and development process in Edmonton.” And, it grants a Certificate of Participation following completion of the three core courses and one elective. These three core courses include:
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:
Government investment in ICT is growing. At Forrester we expect the overall government ICT budget to reach $346 billion in 2011, growing to $382 billion in 2012 or by about 10%. That makes government one of the largest vertical industries – almost double the size of the retail industry, well above the telecom industry and actually behind only professional services and financial services. As government soul searching intensifies in the wake of the financial crisis, and in light of global competition and economic recovery, we expect the dawn of a new government – not “big government” but a government that operates more effectively and certainly more efficiently. What does that look like, and what does that entail? We see three primary trends:
A move to greater performance management processes with an emphasis on KPIs for specific programs rather than just budget targets.
An increased dependence on technology but with an eye to rationalization and consolidation, and an increased role of a centralized CIO to coordinate technology adoption;
And, a growing adoption of enterprise management tools with visibility not only into department level programs but including executive dashboards to enable a holistic view of the government.
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.
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.