Ideas to Action: Page 7 of 16

Wed, 2015-10-28 22:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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Many cities will move from an outside task force to an inside smart city department that will, in some ways, resemble today’s well-accepted ICT departments. Like ICT, the smart city department will have cross-cutting responsibilities. Unlike ICT, however, it will not have specialization as its goal. Rather, its role will be one of coordination, setting overall standards and ensuring that 1) all departments have a common smart city platform to build upon and 2) all individual projects are coordinated with the larger smart city vision.

Some cities put external stakeholders on the task force. However, the most common method is to use city employees and paid consultants for the working team, then to hold meetings to gather input from important stakeholder groups. Some cities own and operate most services – transportation, electric power, water, telecommunications, etc. In other cases, the private sector provides all or most of those services, with the city government providing boundaries and oversight. Cities that do not control their own infrastructure must consult closely with the electric, gas and water utilities that service their territory.

Skilled smart city suppliers can also be a resource at this stage, especially those experienced in master planning and systems integration. Even if the city does not hire them immediately, they can provide directional guidance and recommendations based on their experience helping many different cities.

Although the Smart Cities Council does not do consulting for pay, it does work with selected Spotlight Cities in the early stages of their planning. The Council advises those cities in their use of the Readiness Guide. And it assembles ad hoc teams of experts for brief “mentoring” sessions to get cities “unstuck.”

Borrow from the larger vision

We’ve emphasized that a smart city roadmap should be in service to larger community goals. Many cities maintain 10- or 20-year plans that are updated regularly. Others have vision documents, typically around goals for sustainability or economic development. And most large private developments have a master plan that has given careful consideration to the region’s strengths, needs and cultural preferences.

Many cities also have plans for particular neighborhoods, such as ecodistrict plans or revitalization plans. For instance, the Loop Media Hub Ecodistrict, led by Council advisor David Sandel, is a St. Louis community initiative. It hopes to accelerate economic growth by providing one gigabit (1000 megabits) of Internet access to each building along the city’s Loop Trolley right-of-way.

Your smart city roadmap should draw from these plans to establish your goals, priorities and metrics. Smart technology should be the means to an end. So first you need to determine what that end should look like. Every city has a unique mix of strengths, challenges and cultural preferences. Thus, every city will have different goals. Is your economy based on manufacturing? On tourism? On high-tech services? Every city should tailor its roadmap to buttress its strengths and compensate for its challenges.

For instance, cities emphasizing a lower carbon footprint (as with the Vancouver, B.C. example featured earlier) might prioritize projects that impact emissions, such as smart grid, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. Cities aiming to become high-tech hubs might emphasize such things as broadband connections and mass transit.

If your city has no long-term plans, even for individual districts, then you may want to include a visioning exercise as an early step in your roadmapping process.