“Street Smart” Versus “Book Smart”

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Leonardo da Vinci BridgeSmart 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.
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IBM's Intelligent Operations Center for Smart Cities: Think Cities not just Departments.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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. 
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Crowdsourcing In Vermont Engages - And Empowers - Citizens

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

[Co-authored with Charles Green]

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.

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The Key To Being A Smart City Is Good Governance: “Smart Governance”

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

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.
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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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