Best practices for digital city services
Tens of thousands of digital city services are already operating around the world. (The city of Dubai, for instance, has at least 1,500.) This gives us a solid base of best practices to call upon. As you create your own smart city plan, you’ll want to keep these success factors in mind: 1) enabling infrastructure, 2) digital by default, 3) customer-centric, 4) key performance indicators, 5) platforms, and 6) partnering.
Install the enabling infrastructure
We cover enabling technologies and essential infrastructure in other sections of the Readiness Guide, so we won't repeat that information here. But it bears reminding that a city must have its digital foundation in place before it can successfully attack digital city services.
"You cannot overestimate the importance of having a solid and efficient ICT-architecture as the foundation," emphasizes My City Online, a publication of northern Europe's Smart Cities project, an innovation network between cities and academic institutions. "You can have whatever ambitions you like, if the basic architecture is not flexible and built with communication and interaction in mind you will not be able to deliver your goals."
Enforce digital by default
In many governments, digital is still an afterthought. But high-performing governments can’t afford to treat digitalization as a side project. "Digital by default” is a commitment to deliver all services through digital channels. It was pioneered in the United Kingdom and has since been adopted by dozens of national, state, provincial, county and city governments.The goal is to (eventually) give citizens digital access to every city service.
"Digital services are much more convenient because they can be accessed whenever you want them," explained UK Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude when Digital by Default was launched in 2012. “They are also much more efficient, saving taxpayers' money and the user's time.”
In 2012, Britain’s Society of Information Technology Management surveyed 120 cities to produce these estimates of the relative costs of delivering services: Face-to-face: US$13.84; Phone: $4.54, Online: $0.24
When they provide services digitally, city governments get a bonus: valuable data. For the first time, they can measure exactly when, where and how customers are using those services.
Be careful – “digital by default” does NOT mean “digital only.” Even in the developed world, roughly 20% of the population does not use the Internet regularly. Council Lead Partner Deloitte has a “Deloitte Digital” practice that helps public and private sector organizations make this transition. They caution that governments will need a program to help those that want to go digital but can’t because of physical or financial limitations.
“You must support citizens to use online public sector services who can’t use them independently,” explains Deloitte’s Samier Abousaada, “Those who cannot get a broadband connection due to their location, or have physical/mental impairments that prevent them from using computers, have as much right to be served and interact in a low-cost way.”