Russian Cities Will Get Smarter... By Law.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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. 

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Running Pamplona: ICT Drives City Initiatives (Not The Bulls)

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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).

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3-1-1 Meets Open Data: Open 311 Empowers Citizens and Extends Smart City Governance

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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.  

I first wrote about this trend last year in "Open Cities, Smart Cities: Data Drives Smart City Initiatives."  Such open data initiatives have exploded in recent years – with different terms for the same thing (naturally): open government data (OGD) in the US and public sector information (PSI) in Europe. Yet, with common standards: open data should be complete, primary, timely, accessible, machine-readable, non-discriminatory, non-proprietary in format, and license-free.

 “Public” data is not just from the government, nor for the government

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From "City Hall Shuffle" To Smart City Governance

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

NYC_311.jpgAs 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:

  • snow removal
  • dead animal removal
  • street light replacement
  • pot hole filling

Or the reporting of:

  • missed garbage collection
  • debris in roadways
  • noise complaints
  • parking issues
  • traffic light malfunctioning

Or basic inquiries about:

  • location and hours of libraries
  • registration for parks and recreation programs
  • animal services
  • building permit
  • property taxes
  • upcoming local events
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"Smart" Is Here To Stay: Smart City Tweet Jam Summary

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Forrester’s Smart City Tweet Jam was a great success.  On Tuesday morning/afternoon/evening, smart city followers around the globe participated in an hour of intense tweeting on smart cities.  We touched on a range of issues from the definitions of a “city” and a “smart city” and the evolution toward the goal of becoming smart to the challenges city leaders face and the business models that enable adoption of technology-based solutions.  We ended with a contrarian view that “smart cities” might just be a fade. But that was quickly refuted with reminders of the growing challenges faced by cities and the imperative of facing these challenges in a sustainable manner. 

One hour, 62 Twitterers, and 389 tweets later we were exhausted – at least I was.  But we were pleased to have aired and shared our opinions about the challenges, the potential solutions to those challenges, and the paths and business models that will make those solutions possible in the short-run, and hopefully sustainable in the longer term.  Below are some excerpts from the conversation.  But there were many interesting points of view and contributions to the discussion. I've included here a visual representation of the key words and topics discussed during the Tweet Jam, created using ManyEyes.  For the more stats and the full transcript, check out #smartcityjam.  

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

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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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Taking Lessons From Smart Cities

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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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START And Growth: Sustainability For Growth

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Everyone’s using the term “sustainability.” And, I’ll admit I’m a little jaded. But, given that it’s around to stay for a while, let’s take a look at the term. What are the primary objectives of “sustainability” initiatives? Are they “green” – with an eye toward protecting the environment by reducing the effects of climate change? Are they economic – cost cutting, increasing efficiency? “Sustain” seems static, maintain the current state. But some are thinking about “sustainability” as a means of generating growth. A few weeks ago, I started an interesting discussion about “operational sustainability” with Rich Lechner, IBM Vice President for Energy and Environment. (I say started because it actually continued this week, and will likely continue further.)

“Sustain to grow” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s not. First let’s think about efficiency. What does it mean to be more efficient? Efficiency to me is the goal to “do more with less” – improving the ratio of output to input. So you cut and improve productivity ratios that way. But what if you’ve cut as much as you can, and you still want to do more, to improve those ratios? How can you grow within the limits of the resources you have? Sustain resources, increase productivity or capacity – in whatever terms or measures of capacity you use. This translates into the objective behind “operational sustainability.” How do you improve operations or processes in order to improve outcomes, within the limits of available resources? 

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Open Cities, Smart Cities: Data Drives Smart City Initiatives

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

[co-authored with Eddie Radcliffe]

Last year, Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee called for access to raw data as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Apparently Transport For London (TFL, UK) was listening and has recently opened its doors to the commercial use of large amounts of primary data sets and live feeds. The data newly available includes: tube and train traffic data, feeds from live traffic cameras, Oyster card top-up locations, pier and station locations, cycle hire locations, and riverboat timetables. Following this up, TFL has announced plans to release further information on bus stops, routes, timetables and schedules. Access to this data represents an opportunity for developers to create travel applications based on real-time information. In one such example a web-based mash-up plots the approximate position of every single underground train. While interesting to Londoners who may be able to navigate their morning commute a little better (there's still no escaping the inevitable squeeze on the Central Line), this is a compelling move by TFL to allow access to the same data it uses to power its own information boards. As we see it, such access:

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