Smart People

Mon, 2015-10-26 13:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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A city isn't smart because it uses technology. A city is smart because it uses technology to make its citizens' lives better. This chapter focuses on the "secret sauce" that turns the idea of a smart city into reality – the people who live in the city, who work in the city and the people who have hopes and dreams for the kind of city they will leave for future generations.

Not so many years ago the idea of a smartwatch you could listen to music on or monitor your heart rate with would have seemed far-fetched. And using your smartphone to find a parking spot and pay for it? Or a contactless card that means no more waiting in lines for tokens when you ride the subway?

Too often smart technologies are portrayed as a means to streamline, optimize, integrate, digitalize, systematize, consolidate and otherwise improve infrastructure. And that's certainly a part of what smart ciites are about. As more and more people move to urban centers and strain often inadequate or aging infrastructure, optimizing, integrating and the like become essential if cities are going to provide their citizens with basic needs -- energy, water and shelter among them.


But too often that citizen focus is not underscored often or loudly enough by well-meaning city leaders struggling to find affordable solutions to pressing urban problems.

This chapter will focus on how to bring all city stakeholders together to develop a vision for the city they want to live in – and the one they want their children and grandchildren to live in. It's about listening; about reaching out; about education and oftentimes it's about a new mindset at city hall that is more open, more transparent and more focused on inclusion.

For example, does your idea of listening to citizens consist of giving people a few minutes to speak during public meetings? And are they invited to speak only after you've nearly finalized your plans? If this is how your city "listens," you probably aren't hearing what is really important to your constituents – nor are you hearing from a truly broad cross-section of your city's population. And your projects may well suffer as a result.In this chapter we'll discuss a new mindset and showcase some of the exciting and innovative ways smart cities are building two-way communications with their citizens and creating stronger initiatives as a result. But first, let's underscore some of the ways information and communication technologies (ICT) are improving citizens' lives in very deep and personal ways.

The human side of technology

Technology for technology's sake rarely serves a useful purpose. The magic in technology is how it can transform lives. Consider these examples:  

Helping the blind navigate the city. The smart stick is an idea that came from a conversation an engineering student had with her blind uncle about the challenges he faced getting around a city. Connecting to the Internet of Things, the smart stick guides the blind safely by accessing information from traffic lights, cross walks, buses and construction and weather reports. Sensors at stores let them know if the store is open, what it sells, where the entrance is, etc. The project, backed by Council member Cisco, was developed by a team from the University of Lorraine in France.

Making cities more accessible for all. Accessible Way is an app developed by Council member IBM to enable citizens to report on mobility issues they spot as they go about their daily lives – roads and sidewalks, crosswalks, curbs, traffic and street lights and such in of need repair. Or when there aren't enough handicapped parking spaces or when road signs are confusing. With just a few taps, people can report the exact location and type of the problem, giving cities detailed information to improve mobility.

Improving the health of people at-risk. Myanmar, which has an exceptionally high rate of infant mortality, is providing pregnant women with a free app from Council member Ooredoo that provides health alerts with care information and locations of medical services. In China, where the textile workforce is predominately uneducated young women, a mobile program from Council member Qualcomm provides access to health servicesand information. Both projects are improving lives for populations that have disproportionately suffered with poor health care.

Helping children learn to read, write and tell stories. In Australia, children who couldn't sit still for even a few minutes dramatically improved their language abilities when the lessons were presented in video game form. A project from Council member Microsoft made it easy for teachers to tailor the game technology to teach specific skills and to encourage the youngsters to practice.

Using open data to improve lives

Smart cities can get more mileage out of their ICT investments when they use analytics to sift the data provided via sensors and other smart devices to surface useful information that can help citizens improve their lives and livehoods. We'll talk in more detail later about the open data movement. You can also download the Council's Smart Cities Open Data Guide for help getting your city started down the open data path. In this section we'll focus more on the benefits to citizens that can come from open data policies.

Opening or releasing data sets provides an opportunity for cities internally and the developer community externally to use the data to build web-based and smartphone applications. As the open data movement has snowballed, so too has the depth and breadth of apps available today.

Consider just a few examples of common apps you can find in cities around the globe today:

Interactive crime maps that help citizens see where crimes are occurring so they can take steps to be safer or be more vigilant and report suspicious behavior.

Traffic flow apps help commuters find the fastest route to their destination and by doing helping relieve road congestion.

Air pollution alerts inform people when air quality reaches a worrisome level, allowing them to take steps to stay safe..

Restaurant inspection apps help citizens choose dining establishments that take food safety seriously and stay away from those that don't. By extension they provide an incentive for restaurants that have been lax with safety to do a better job.

Now let's look at a few city-specific apps. As you'll see, cities of all sizes are participating in the open data movement with apps that help residents and visitors alike in countless ways.

Toronto Cycling. This app has a dual purpose of enabling cyclists to track their rides with GPS and help the city of Toronto improve current cycling infrastructure and plan for future cycling investment.

Simon. Developed by Belfast, Northern Ireland housing charity Simon, this app provides quick and easy access, at a local level, to services if someone is homeless or is at risk of becoming homeless and also gives community members a way to help individuals in need.

The Ferry App. Visitors to Seattle, Washington, often use car ferries that ply scenic Puget Sound. With this app, they won't rush to a ferry terminal only to learn their boat left 15 minutes earlier. Users can view ferry schedules, cameras and vessel positions and save favorite routes for quick access.

App for Cornwall. Boosting tourism in Cornwall, England is the intent of this smartphone app that provides information on attractions, activities, places to eat, pubs, clubs, shopping, accommodation and much more.

DengueLah. Singapore reported 22,318 dengue fever cases in 2013, making it the worst epidemic of the mosquito-borne viral disease since 2005, according to news reports. This app pinpoints dengue outbreaks in greater Singapore, based on data from the National Environment Agency.

Calgary Pets. People who want to adopt a pet or find one that they've lost can use this app to connect to the Animal Services Centre in Calgary, Alberta.

Smart Cities Apps Gallery

 Browse through the Council's Apps Gallery for many more examples of smartphone apps developed by and for cities.

A day in your new urban life: How smart cities lead to happier citizens


How Smart Cities Lead to happier citizens

It's Monday morning, a rare day off for Josie. But when the alarm on her smart wristphone chirps, she doesn't reach for the snooze button. "Too much to do today," she reminds herself. Peeking around her bedroom's solar curtain, she's pleased to see the sun shining brightly.

"Perfect," she decides. "I can bike over to the mall, drop off the bike and pick up a car when I'm done."

Josie doesn't actually own a bike or a car; living in a city with abundant share programs means she doesn't have to. And since the café she runs is only 10 blocks from her condo, she typically walks to work – or if the weather is really lousy hops on a bus. She's proud that her city has a smart transportation system that uses advanced technologies to streamline traffic flow – and that it works.

Wandering into the kitchen, Josie pours herself a cup of coffee that started brewing when her alarm went off. Between her smart wristphone and her smart thermostat, pretty much every creature comfort in her condo is automated. She told the system her preferences, of course, but from then on it took care of the details. If it notices her overriding the original settings, it quickly adapts to her new wishes. Her shower is programmed to run at the same temperature every day and her refrigerator sends an alert to her phone when she's running low on items she typically has on hand. She just brings up the list when she's at the grocery store.

She knows she'll miss her condo when she and Miguel move into the loft they found. But the condo is on the small side for two people. Though the loft is small too, it has transformable spaces thanks to "robot walls" that can be moved to create different spaces for different needs. Josie is especially happy with the new TeleWall. The high-definition big-screen will let Miguel telecommute much of the time and she plans to use it for the online courses she's taking.

After a quick trip to the roof to check on the garden she shares with the building's other tenants, she grabs her backpack and looks at a phone app to see the closest available bike-share. Turns out, there is one just around the corner. But if Josie had been running late or faced with rainy weather, she had only to enter her destination into her city transit app to get a route plan optimized for her preferences.

Jumping on her bike, she picks her destination from her favorites list and transfers her phone display to an overlay in her glasses. She instantly sees an alert from the city's traffic system warning of a downtown parade that threatens to jam up her usual route. She picks an alternate route calculated by the system and follows the directions as they appear in her glasses.

The purpose of her trip to the mall is to find something to wear to a party. But as she walks past the virtual city hall that occupies a small storefront near the mall entrance, she realizes she can take care of another item on her to-do list.

"This is pretty sweet," she says as she sits down in a private "closet" equipped with high-definition video equipment that allows her to interact with a remote city agent. She tells him she needs a permit for a street fair her cafe is going to participate in but doesn't know what it's called. The agent quickly finds the form she needs, transmits it to the touchscreen in front of her and Josie is able to fill it out and send it back within minutes. Before she leaves the agent mentions a new waste management system the city is testing at restaurants. It's "pay as you throw" – meaning the less they throw away and the more they recycle the lower their monthly bill. Josie likes the sound of that and signs up on the spot. She asks for daily updates. Since her trash and recycling bins are monitored by smart sensors, the city knows moment by moment how much trash Josie's cafe has accumulated. It can warn her when it looks like she'll exceed the goal she set for herself, while there is still time to improve.

She spends another hour trying on dresses suggested by the store's shopping service, which taps into a history of past purchases that Josie has rated and posted for just this purpose. Then glancing at her wrist, she realizes she has to get moving. She promised to take her grandmother to a medical appointment and doesn't want to be late. As she walks toward the mall exit on floors that harvest energy from her footsteps, she passes a car-share wall display that has embedded smart tags. She waves her wristphone at the wall to find the nearest electric car– and sees there's one fully-charged just two blocks away.

During the medical appointment, Josie is relieved to see the specialist her grandmother is seeing for the first time pull up electronic records that provide a complete view of her medical history. She's heard stories about elderly patients suffering harmful drug interactions because one doctor doesn't know what the other is prescribing.

When she finally gets home that evening, it is dinner time and Josie's hoping a robot will appear with a gourmet meal – but then she sees Miguel waiting for her with a pizza box and figures that's close enough.

Who sets the agenda?

So where do bright ideas that make cities smarter and citizens' lives better come from? Should elected officials develop a vision that they sell to residents? Or do citizens announce their needs and set priorities? Smart cities realize the answer is a combination of both.

The traditional top-down approach to city planning and decision-making tends to result either in improvements that are more iterative than innovative, or sweeping initiatives that get stuck. Plans that are developed using very limited input may miss out on unique viewpoints that can give the effort so much more strength. Further, since the entire project risk is on one person or a small group, these projects tend to avoid risk altogether, and therefore avoid making any dramatic improvement. Or, if the project is truly revolutionary, it may never get off the ground. There's always resistance to change, and even if the vision is good, some may try to stop it for political reasons if they can't claim at least part of the success as their own.

A top-down vision may also result in a city that few people want to live in. Do you really know what your residents want? Have you asked? An operations management lecturer at the University of Leeds decided to ask Boston residents what they wanted from a smart city, and the answer was a bit surprising. They said they wanted a smarter version of what they already have. Thinking of the place their grandchildren may eventually call home, the workshop participants all wanted something that's more sustainable and livable, but they also wanted it to be recognizable. They were concerned that only the rich and powerful have a say in shaping the city, and desperately wanted the smart city to enhance – not replace – the city that they know.

A bottom-up approach is typically much more innovative and inclusive. As Council member Oracle describes it, this approach turns citizens from end-users to begin-users. It brings together a wide variety of people with different backgrounds working toward a common interest. You will have groups of people trying different ideas. Some ideas will work; others won't. People adapt and will likely join together to work problems out. Eventually, the better ideas will float to the top, resulting in an imaginative vision that's not usually possible with centralized decision-making.

While this sounds ideal, it isn't a perfect model, either. With a large number of people acting spontaneously, this approach can be full of complexity. Their solutions may also miss the mark if the participants aren't repre-sentative of the community as a whole. They may work for themselves instead of for everyone.

That last point demands more attention, as it's one of the biggest sources of risk and missed opportunities in smart cities projects. People in low-income neighborhoods are typically left out of bottom-up planning. As Rick Robinson, IT Director for Big Data and Smart Cities at Amey, points out, these people are not without a smart cities vision of their own. They just can't accomplish it on their own.

When people are left out of the discussion and the solution, they are deprived of the infrastructure and resources they need to succeed. It's not a case of charity. As cities become increasingly urban, the success of lower-income neighborhoods is the success of the city as a whole.

A smart city incorporates all communities and devotes attention to providing the necessary infrastructure in those neighborhoods that are falling behind. With populations swelling, providing equitable access and raising living standards of those typically left behind is the only way cities can become truly livable and sustainable.

An approach that mixes top-down with bottom-up brings together the best of both worlds and avoids common pitfalls. Communities need some governance; they just don't need heavy-handed "my way or the highway" governance. Under a light governance model, city leaders set guardrails for the citizens to work within.

Rigid rules are replaced with conditional models. Instead of restrictive rules that tell people what they can't do, leaders enable the community to come up with innovative solutions within certain boundaries while ensuring that everyone has a voice.

How citizens came together to rebuild constitución after devastating earthquake

After a devastating earthquake and tsunami leveled much of Constitución, Chile in 2010, residents came together and developed a new community master plan in just 90 days. And they did it largely without the Internet and without using tax revenue.

The Brickstarter blog profiled the warp-speed project, which is remarkable. Constitución finished its sweeping plan and built consensus in just three months. Here's how it happened:

Shortly after the disaster, leaders opened a community center in town and invited residents to stop by to not only see the progress being made, but also to help shape the work being done. Regular meetings were designed to put everyone in the city – from city officials and building experts to the citizens themselves – on the same level. The role of experts was completely redesigned. Experts worked as facilitators. They helped shape concepts from brainstorming sessions into workable ideas; they did not dictate what would be done.

Internet access was spotty, so while social media was used to solicit some ideas, it wasn't the primary vehicle. Weekly town meetings were. To make sure everyone knew about the meetings, organizers drove around town with a loudhailer inviting people to attend. The meetings were packed and lively. Residents congregated around whiteboards to sketch out ideas. The experts served as valuable resources to answer questions and help refine ideas. Passionate debate was not only allowed, but encouraged. Those heated discussions helped identify and shape priorities. And participation remained strong throughout the process; the rebuilding process in many other communities has had strong initial interest but as rapidly lost steam.

The project was paid for by a forestry company – one of the biggest businesses in town. Normally, that would be viewed as a huge liability. Instead, the company was just another participant in the discussions. It funded the work with no strings attached. Any unease about its potential influence quickly vanished due to the way it conducted itself. It ensured that it had no more of a voice than anyone else.

Within four years after the 50-foot (19-meter) tsunami washed away homes and businesses, nearly 500 new homes were built. So, too, were businesses and parks. There is a newly reconstructed foreshore, which gives the public more prime area to enjoy the water and also provides more protection should another tsunami ever hit. Open space and recreation areas are a key feature of all the new housing developments. More riverfront areas were also turned into public walkways and parks. The city is also putting the finishing touches on its new cultural center.

Looking at its new downtown, which is truly something to envy, the city credits its hybrid planning approach. The disaster provided an incredible opportunity for the community to improve its livability and sustainability, and allowing the public to drive the process resulted in a true transformation that simply wouldn't have been possible if it was driven by politics. But the public also couldn't do it alone. The city started the process by preparing a very rough vision that it encouraged participants to attack. This jumpstarted discussion, preventing the citizens from getting stuck in the very first phase. Co-design was what the city called its approach: the city provided guidance and resources to help citizens achieve their vision. It also helped that people came together to discuss issues in public; social media is no substitute for talking face-to-face.  And participation remained strong throughout the process. Often a rebuilding process like this has strong initial interest but rapidly loses steam.

The project was paid for by a forestry company – one of the biggest businesses in Constitución. Normally, that would be viewed as a huge liability. Instead, the company was just another participant in the discussions. It funded the work with no strings attached. Any unease about its potential influence quickly vanished due to the way it conducted itself. It ensured that it had no more of a voice than anyone else.

Within four years after the 50-foot (19-meter) tsunami washed away Constitución homes and businesses, nearly 500 new homes were built. So, too, were businesses and parks. There is a newly reconstructed foreshore, which gives the public more prime area to enjoy the water and also provides more protection should another tsunami ever hit.

Open space and recreation areas are a key feature of all the new housing developments. More riverfront areas were also turned into public walkways and parks. The city is also putting the finishing touches on its new cultural center.

Looking at its new downtown, which is truly something to envy, the city credits its hybrid planning approach. The disaster provided an incredible opportunity for the community to improve its livability and sustainability, and allowing the public to drive the process resulted in a true transformation that most likely wouldn't have been possible if it was driven by politics.

But the public also couldn't do it alone. The city started the process by preparing a very rough vision that it encouraged participants to attack. This jumpstarted the lively debates about the city's future.

Co-design is what the city called its approach: the city provided guidance and resources to help citizens achieve their vision. It also helped that people came together to discuss issues in public; in circumstances like this one, there's much to be said for talking face-to-face.

Empowering citizens

Empowering citizens means that they not only have a voice, but they're regarded as a key stakeholder helping shape a project. For citizens to be empowered, they also have to be engaged, and that may require a different mindset within city hall.

The business-as-usual approaches that cities have used for well over a 100 years to involve citizens aren't typically effective today, if they ever really were. Unless there's a hot-button issue, citizen participation in public meetings tends to be weak. And cities get little out of them, too. Public meetings tend be held near the end of the process, so forums on any controversial issue tend to be venting sessions where citizens yell at staff and elected leaders.

When you ask, the public is typically quite clear about why it doesn't participate in government more. Cary, North Carolina surveys its residents every other year about various topics and the so-called barriers to citizen involvement rarely change. Nearly half of residents say they simply don't have time to participate. It's not that they feel it's a waste of time – the survey shows most people believe they can make a difference in their communities – they just don't have the time to participate, don't know about the opportunities, or the meetings are at inconvenient times.

Cary is hardly unique, and if you try to put yourself in your citizens' shoes, the problem becomes obvious. Most city meetings tend to be scheduled during the middle of the day or in the evening on a weeknight. How many people can afford to take off work to go to a committee meeting? Or if you spend all day working at a job, rush home to make dinner for the family and help the kids with their homework, would you have the energy to go to a council meeting at night and still be refreshed for work the next day?

Viewed from the perspective of citizens, it's pretty easy to see why the traditional public participation model doesn't work. And smart cities need to understand that if it doesn't work for their citizens, it won't work for them either.

The authors of "The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance" suggest many city staffers aren't particularly fond of public meetings either. For one, they can be painful. Either they are boring affairs attended by the same small group of people who complain about the same things, or they're very intense meetings where they are the focus of an angry mob. Says co-author Stephen Goldsmith, when you tell your staff to communicate more, they tend to think about doing more of the same thing they're already doing. But why would anyone want to conduct more of those dreaded meetings when there are so many more effective ways today to connect with ctizens?

Changing the engagement mindset

Today, building an engaged community requires communicating with citizens on their own terms.

  • Provide ample opportunities for citizens to get involved in a time and manner that works for them.
  • Give updates early and often so that people can be involved in the earliest stages, allowing them to help shape projects.
  • Use multiple communications tools so citizens have a choice in how they want to interact with their city, for example, social media, text messages, online forums.
  • Continue the conversation when the project is complete; share results and benefits so they can see their involvement was worthwhile.

Doing these things may require getting your city staff to think of citizen communication in a new way. The key is not just more communication; it's more effective communication which occurs when you put citizens' needs and preferences first. You'll see examples in the sections ahead.

Continuously pursue two-way communication with citizens: Citizens help Fort Collins design its future

Like many cities in 2010, the recession hit the city of Fort Collins, Colorado. Officials didn't have a lot of money to spend revising its long-term city plan.

As then-Mayor Karen Weitkunat told The New York Times: "We could do an urban design plan, but we didn't have the money to pay for any of it. It put a reality check on what we were here to do."

But that didn't stop the city, already labeled an innovator for some of the things it has done in energy. Here's how the Times describes what happened when Fort Collins decided to rewrite the urban planning model:

"So Fort Collins reached out as it never had before, seeking volunteers and input, and, just as crucially, ideas about how to finance a new future in an age of limits. And those reaching back, including some people and organizations who had never participated in city planning, from arts groups and beer brewers to technology entrepreneurs and professors at Colorado State University, created the city's new vision of itself — an ambitious and comprehensive plan, even by the standards of bigger cities in more prosperous times.

Democratized by necessity, the process led to goals that went beyond the predictable safe streets and commerce that planners might have otherwise emerged with. In a departure from the old command-down process — planners proposing, residents disposing in public planning meetings — ideas bubbled up in new ferment."

Ideas that connect communities

The best communication method is one that meets the unique needs of a community. In the next section we'll talk about digital communications. But even in this day and age, cities are finding other effective ways to connect with citizens, and citizens to connect with each other. Below are examples both low-tech and high tech.

Events and "walkshops" bring people together in Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver, B.C. knew it had to get citizens involved if it had any hope of achieving its Greenest City in the World 2020 initiative. But stuffy meetings didn't seem the right way to build engagement, especially when the subject was the beautiful outdoors.

So the Vancouver Planning Commission and neighboring municipalities worked to bring engagement into the communities. The city of Burnaby held an environmental festival, full of music, food and family-oriented activities. Others organized "walkshops," a moving conversation that allows community members and planners to get to know a neighborhood better together. And the North Vancouver mayor organized a bike tour to help

residents learn about new bikeways, cycling improvements and talk about future initiatives.

'Door Open' days in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax hosts "Doors Open" days that invite citizens to explore historic buildings and more contemporary venues for free. Halifax native Hugh MacKay, who brought the idea to his city after seeing Doors Open events in other Canadian and European cities, told the Chronicle Herald that he was encouraged by a comment he heard during the 2013 event: "It was the remark of a recent immigrant to Canada who commented that nothing in his experience had ever demonstrated to him the openness of Canadian government so much as walking into city hall and being greeted by the mayor and welcomed to Doors Open."

Another view from El Jones, the Halifax poet laureate: "You can live in this city and never be in city hall and never be to Province House and particularly sometimes people feel that these spaces are these kind of official spaces that they aren't welcome in. I think it's very important for people to claim those spaces in their own cities and go into these places and say I have a right to be here and I'm going to look at what's on the walls and I'm going to be part of this city as well because it's mine."

Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Porto Alegre is credited with pioneering the concept of participatory budgeting back in the 1980s to empower people to participate in setting priorities for how public money should be spent to solve city challenges, from mobility to sanitation to education. Prior to 1989, Porto Alegre faced significant financial challenges from de-industrialization, in-migration, indebtedness and a poor revenue base. But thanks in part to participatory budgeting, the World Bank cites some spectacular achievements in the years that followed. Among them: Between 1989 and 1996, the percentage of the population served by the municipal sewage system rose from 46% to 85% and the number of children enrolled in public schools doubled.

Bringing young people into the thick of civic affairs in Salisbury, Maryland. Young people compete for seats on the Youth Civics Council – a student-inspired initiative that has each youth council member identify a community issue, develop a plan to address it and then present it to the city council. And the teens take it quite seriously, according to the local media. Here's an example: "Bennett High junior Ahmed Osman is focused on tourism, unemployment and recruiting businesses to locate in downtown Salisbury, and Davis has ideas designed to open up the Plaza to two-way traffic and encourage more businesses to open in that area in particular. Davis is also exploring the concept of city-county consolidation to reduce government costs."

Helping citizens help each other. If given the choice between stuffy and fun, nobody would choose stuffy. Photo contests and other creative competitions not only boost engagement, they can also result in truly innovative ideas. When given the opportunity to be artistic and creative, many will jump at it. The Burnaby Homeless Task Force, which serves part of Vancouver, B.C., got a group of quilters together to produce a piece that illustrated the wide diversity of the homeless population that relies on its service. The quilt was displayed at the library to help tell the story of its important mission in a new way. The project attracted the attention of Quilts Etc., a national bedding retailer, which has since supported a number of projects to draw attention to the homeless population and collect supplies for them.

Here's another example: Small communities often create tight bonds between neighbors, creating tight-knit community where they may share resources, such as tools or food. But a first-of-its-kind neighborhood near Austin, Texas, goes well beyond that. People who live there can also share electricity. Community First! Village is described as the world's first neighborhood powered by crowd-sourced energy. It's the work of an organization that's been working for years to reduce homelessness. By allowing people to donate energy, it removes one more large worry for cash-strapped residents.

Council Lead Partner Itron is helping sponsor the project and built the infrastructure for the donation system. People who want to donate have several options:

  • Pay for a certain amount of energy that is sent to the Village or a specific home
  • Generate their own power through solar panels and the like and donate that energy
  • Participate in conservation efforts, including demand-response programs, and donate the energy they save

Santa Monica's data driven well-being index helps shape city priorities

With a million-dollar grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, the city of Santa Monica, California set out to scientifically identify and assess the well-being of its residents.

Working with experts in the science of well-being, Santa Monica created the Wellbeing Index which brings together data from 100 distinct and wide-ranging data points to provide a comprehensive picture of how well city residents are doing so the city can make more informed decisions.

The data was analyzed to provide key findings across five areas – environment/place, health, economic opportunity, learning and community connectedness. Further breakdown identified well-being indicators based upon demographics such as geography, gender, age and ethnicity.

The findings are available on the city's Wellbeing Project website. A few key findings included:

  • Strong civic engagement with large numbers of people voting (79%) and volunteering (38%)
  • Yet 41% of residents feel their civic influence is limited and 36% feel disengaged from the city
  • Seniors showed the highest level of personal well being and those ages 45- 54 years old the lowest
  • One in five younger adults (ages 18- 24) reported loneliness all or most of the time; one in three reported concern about missing rent or mortgage payments

"In pioneering this innovation, we can more effectively improve the life experiences of our own residents, using an unprecedented level of data-driven knowledge about wellbeing to shape public policy," said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown.

Engaging communities digitally

While face-to-face conversation is often preferable, it isn't always possible. Thankfully, technology is helping make it easier than ever to engage those who don't have the time or ability to participate in traditional meetings or public events.

Yet because social media is so ubiquitous and easy to use, there is a temptation to use it as an only source for engaging the public. That can be short sighted since social media only captures one segment of the population. In the U.S., for example, Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform. But even there, only 70% of adults who go online have Facebook accounts, according to the Pew Research Center. About a quarter of online adults use Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest.

Another Pew study found that social networks overall attract people who make less than $30,000 annually or more than $75,000; the middle-class is under-represented.

That's not to suggest cities shouldn't use social media in their engagement efforts – it can be quite valuable. But it's important to remember that the audience you'll reach is a subset of your community and therefore there are some limitations to the insights you glean.

Digital engagement efforts primarily work in two ways. Digital tools can help you measure what people in your community are thinking and they can help you create an online forum where people can share and debate ideas. We'll cover both in more depth.

Listening in on the social buzz

Whether or not your city is listening, people are talking about it, from the challenges they face on their morning commutes to encounters with city staff. These conversations are happening on social media. In fact, on Twitter alone, more than a half a billion tweets are sent each day. Enter social sentiment analysis.

Council member IBM has combined natural language capabilities with its data analysis platform to transform online conversations into real-time, instant polls. For example, IBM's Social Sentiment Index helped Bangalore and Mumbai find their respective sources of traffic headaches.

Sparking online discussions

Online discussion forums aren't new, but they are experiencing something of a resurgence in the public sector. Cities are creating their own discussion forums as a way for citizens to post ideas and weigh in on city proposals and to encourage others to join the civic conversation.

The city of Reykjavík, which is home to about two-thirds of Iceland's residents, has had great success with online forums, which it uses to discuss everything from the budget to neighborhood issues. About 40% of residents use the online forum, and the city council has committed to discussing the top topics each month.

But you may not need an elaborate online discussion forum. Cities may find they get more public feedback simply by making it easier for citizens to contact them. The Sheriff's Office in Stearns County, Minn., saw a 500% increase in crime tips when it added a simple email contact form to its website. As its site drew more traffic, the number of people downloading crime prevention information more than doubled as well.

For online discussions to thrive, cities must commit to a two-way dialogue. If people ask questions or present ideas, someone from the city should respond. If citizens decide nobody is listening, they'll quickly lose interest.


Scottsdale, Arizona launched Speak Up Scottsdale in 2012 to give citizens a way to present ideas and provide feedback. The website is a moderated discussion forum that also has the ability to launch polls and surveys.

The city has started open-ended discussions on everything from its vision statements to changes that would make its website more useful to the community. Residents can also start their own discussions, which have been wide ranging. When a resident starts a discussion, other citizens can vote on whether or not it's a high priority issue for them too.

One discussion thread led to safety improvements for pedestrians at a newly-expanded shopping center. The city quickly took notice after several other residents gave the initial post a thumbs up.

Most ideas can't be implemented immediately, but city staff typically acknowledge the suggestion the same day it is posted and post follow-up messages in the discussion forum as they investigate the idea and come up with solutions.

One idea was for the city to encourage Internet service providers to bring gigabit Internet to the area; the city provides updates every few months on the progress it has been making.

Offer a citizen-centric portal for services

We've talked about how important it is for citizens to be involved in the pursuit and realization of a smart city. That's why it's crucial that cities create an integrated, comprehensive online portal for people to access their smart city services.

Today websites and mobile applications can recognize individual citizens and deliver personally tailored information to them. Such digital interactions with citizens allow smart cities to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness at the same time they heighten citizen satisfaction.

Until recently, it was far too expensive to personalize service for each resident. Today, however, the technology exists to personalize virtually every interaction. In the Web 1.0 world, digital governmental services typically meant a series of websites. Those sites were typically designed from the point of view of the government. It was up to the citizens to navigate their way around to find what they needed, a chore that was often time-consuming and frustrating.

Now we have the ability to create personalized customer portals and personalized outbound messages. More and more citizens are coming to expect personalization, since they receive it in so many other parts of their lives. And when these portals are designed with mobile in mind, it helps people capitalize on the timeliness of their personalized data

Personalized e-government services increase citizen satisfaction and compliance while reducing mistakes and misunderstandings that can occur when they are forced to dig up information on their own.

Next-generation eGovernment

Thanks to advanced technology, cities don't have to look far today for help providing a wide array of digital government – or eGovernment – services.

Council member Imex Systems, for example, helps cities turn a number of departmental systems into a single enterprise system for end-to-end service delivery. By doing so, public officials get a better understanding of citizens' interaction with the city. The eGov services that companies like Imex provide range from citizen portals to mobile payment systems to billing systems and cloud services.

Another example comes from Council member SunGard Public Sector, which offers a range of eGov services for not only cities, but also solutions specific to their public safety departments and courts. Additionally, SunGard's Click2Gov solution empowers citizens through interactive mapping capabilities, calendaring and self-service bill-pay options. And increasingly important in many cities today, Click2Gov supports multilingual communities, detecting and translating the user interface so language barriers don't interfere with access to city services.

Supporting practices

No matter how integral technology targets are, a smart city vision will never be fully realized if those targets aren't planned, deployed and managed correctly. That's why we've identified what we're calling supporting practices for cities to consider as they plot a course towards the future. As you'll see in the pages ahead, these supporting practices are all dependent on people making smart decisions to get maximum value out of their technology investments.

We've already covered citizen engagement extensively, so in the pages ahead our focus will be the other two supporting practices.

  • Policy and leadership. This includes the management policies and leadership capabilities that cities use to plan for and support ICT investments. For example, ICT will benefit cities, their residents and businesses most when a comprehensive smart city plan has been created.
  • Finance and procurement. These practices help cities buy and pay for the technologies they need. Employing proven techniques can help a city get the right technology, at the right time, at the right price. One example is developing an integrated procurement plan for technology across all city departments.

In the chart below you'll see supporting practices that will help cities realize the technology targets discussed in previous chapters. Unless otherwise noted, these supporting practices apply to every city responsibility area covered in this Guide. In the Ideas to Action chapter that follows this one, we will explore how cities can enact these policies to best achieve the technology targets and become smart cities.

Policy & Leadership
  • Utilize a bottom-up approach to city planning and decision-making
  • Promote a comprehensive smart city plan
  • Encourage shared infrastructure
  • Cultivate a smart workforce
  • Encourage a culture of innovation
Finance & Procurement
  • Adhere to a disciplined and integrated technology procurement plan
  • Consider all funding mechanism
Citizen Engagement
  • Continuously pursue two-way communication with citizens on strategies for and benefits of ICT before and after deployment
  • Offer an integrated, personalized citizen portal for services
  • Disseminate timely information about public safety, public health, transportation and other services that impact the public

The role of city leadership

If citizens are empowered to set the agenda and craft solutions, what is there left for city leaders to do? A lot. To move cities forward, city leaders and staff need to partner with stakeholders – citizens, the business community, academia, nonprofits, other public agencies, etc. With a smart cities project, that may mean inspiring stakeholders by educating them on the possibilities and encouraging them to get involved. It also means guiding the project's implementation to ensure that it is done correctly, on time and at reasonable cost.

To fulfill this end of your partnership with your community, you need a comprehensive plan. This plan is by no means static; it should be continually evaluated and updated as you prepare for and travel on your smart cities journey. It also encompasses all work streams in every single responsibility and enabler discussed in this Readiness Guide. The plan organizes city efforts and resources across departments, identifies and articulates city priorities and plans action steps to achieve the recommended targets.

A comprehensive smart city plan calls for:

  • Measurable targets for livability, workability and sustainability
  • Timely reports of progress toward those targets.

This plan should be articulated in ways that citizens and other stakeholders will understand because they see its connection to their lives.

Arguably this may be the most important piece of the entire Readiness Guide since by definition a comprehensive plan will consider all the other aspects of an ICT-enabled smart city. A comprehensive plan sets the stage by:

Maximizing synergies and minimizing costs. Considering the big picture can help a city find ways to share infrastructure and share costs – doing away with unnecessary duplication of ICT investments.

Identifying the best places to start. Picking the "low-hanging fruit" – which are projects that have a big return for a relatively small investment in money and time – often makes most sense. If a city starts with those "big bang" projects, it can build momentum and public support. And it can potentially generate revenue for use on future projects.

Enabling cities to build separate projects. With a plan in place, you can be confident everything will work together in the end because you're adhering to principles and standards that ensure interoperability and collaboration. With such a framework a city can move towards its targets one step at a time, knowing that individual projects will be compatible with each other, even if they are built separately at different times.

Increasing public support. Since a comprehensive plan promotes the future benefits and paints a picture of the future improvements in livability, workability and sustainability, it can dramatically increase public understanding and support. It can also help rally support and financing from the private sector.

Attracting talent and business. A smart city wants to woo today's mobile professionals and easy-to-relocate high-tech businesses, but both are increasingly choosy when deciding where to establish themselves. They are attracted to cities that have a strong, compelling vision for a better future and a path to get there, which is what your comprehensive plan lays out.

Emphasizing the need for change and change management. Smart cities are visionary projects. As with all such projects, organizations undertaking them will be most successful if they are good at articulating and fostering change. Comprehensive smart city plans promote "change management" strategies that ensure minimum negative impacts and maximum positive outcomes in their pursuit of a smart city.

Share infrastructure. It doesn't take someone from the city budget office to see the value in reducing needless duplication and redundant spending. And that's what can happen when cities recognize interdependencies between departments and the value of cross-coordination. Actively seeking ways to share ICT infrastructure between city departments – and having backup plans in place should problems occur – simply makes sense.

Beyond reducing redundant spending and effort, benefits of sharing infrastructure between departments can:

  • Uncover wasteful duplication 
  • Surface potential synergies and new solution opportunities
  • Reduce arguments and friction 
  • Unearth and enforce best practices citywide

Another big benefit of sharing infrastructure is that a city can improve overall results by bringing multiple minds and multiple viewpoints to the table. Additionally, future expansion and applications are fast-tracked when infrastructure is shared because computing and information assets are no longer stranded in separate "silos."

In some cases, it may also make sense for a smart city to explore the benefits of sharing its infrastructure with the private sector. For example, this is important when it comes to broadband and cellular connectivity. Often it is private sector operators who are best suited to deploy and maintain these networks with a high degree of reliability, security and coverage.

Working smarter

A key factor that can affect your ability to deliver on your smart city promises is your workforce. There are two components to this: 1) ensuring your staff has the skills that smart infrastructure deployments demand, and 2) making sure they see the big picture and can abandon silos to work together effectively.

Working smarter won't happen overnight. It involves serious long-term planning and careful consideration of the resources you need today, over the next year, and several years from now. ICT projects have a lifecycle and it's critical to have the right resources with the right knowledge at the right time. Because highly-trained workers are in high demand, it's important that you plan now so that you will have the resources when you need them.

Cultivating a smart workforce

For skilled ICT workers, you'll be competing not only with other cities and government agencies, but the private sector as well. To ensure you have the skilled workforce a smart city requires, developing policies and programs that cultivate that workforce will help. Building the skills necessary to install, maintain and optimize smart city technologies should be a priority.

Many options exist for promoting a smart city workforce, and cities should find those that best fit their own needs and circumstances. For instance, you may choose to:

  • Organize or partner with professional groups to identify skills needed
  • Promote relevant licensing exams and continuing education curriculums
  • Use a 'sustainable' designation for professionals
  • Publish guidelines or create incentives to include smart technology topics in public and private education and workforce training

Encourage innovation in your city

In addition to an active campaign to train and groom a skilled ICT workforce inside city hall, cities that embrace and encourage a culture of innovation city-wide will attract businesses and talent drawn to that kind of environment.

Chief Innovation Officers and Chief Data Officers are becoming increasingly common in larger cities and can play a critical role in championing a city's "open for innovation" mantra. Whether it's hosting hackathons as New York City has been doing since 2009 or establishing an entrepreneur-in-residence program as San Francisco has, these are point people who can help foster a spirit of creativity and collaboration throughout city departments and also into the community-at-large.

On the next page, for example, read how a major South Korean retailer worked with transit authorities to launch an innovative virtual grocery store in a busy subway station.

Mobile shopping in Korea – Bringing convenience to consumers

A major retailer in South Korea set a challenging goal: to become the number one grocery retailer without adding new physical stores. Instead, they created "virtual" stores, starting with the city's subway stations.

Displays at virtual stores are the same as physical stores.

Wall-length billboards are installed in stations, designed to look like shelves and displaying images and prices of common products. Each sign includes a QR code; consumers shop by scanning products. Their order is then delivered within the day.

Workers in Korea typically work long hours and the strategy makes productive use of commuters' waiting time, while simultaneously saving shoppers' time spent going to the supermarket. It's the kind of innovation that can help cities attract and retain a talented, digitally savvy workforce and also show businesses that they support new ideas that benefit their citizens.

The retailer in this case not only helped consumers use their idle commute time by bringing the store to them. It has also become the number one player in the online market and second in physical stores.

What language are you speaking?

Communication is the overriding theme in this chapter. We've talked about various ways city leaders can engage the community in conversation and the information you should communicate. But the words you choose are also very important. If people misunderstand the plan or the progress the city is making toward it, your words can leave the community uninspired, gravely disappointed or both.

A new tool created by developer APQC with support from Council member Microsoft promotes common language to help eliminate miscommunication. The City Government Process Classification Framework was based on discussions APQC has had with more than 750 organizations over the past 30 years. The Excel worksheet defines processes and language uses throughout government services, including legislative, executive and judicial, as well as related city service providers, such as public safety, health, zoning and licensing.

APQC says the common framework helps take things that were difficult to understand or articulate and make them more transparent. Having an objective standard helps reduce the potential for conflict. Microsoft adds that it gives cities a head start in their improvement efforts, by clarifying where opportunities are, setting benchmarks, and communicating more clearly with all involved, including any vendors who will help execute the vision.

Tell a story

Most of us can remember plenty of stories we were told as children. You may have retold them to your own children. By contrast, how many college lectures do you remember? Stories have remarkable power to capture our attention and imagination.

Your smart cities vision may resonate more with the public and city staff if you present your concept with the elements of a story. Set the stage for your vision. What can be improved and why does it need to be improved? The plot is the approach you will use to address and solve the challenge. The climax is where you paint a picture of the future of the city where everything is running smoothly. And every story needs characters; don't forget yours. They are the people who live and work in the city.

But as you're busy telling your story, just don't forget to listen to others who are telling theirs.

Finance and procurement supporting practices

Let’s face it: Implementing smart city technologies in an era when so many cities are budget-strapped is going to be a financial challenge. But it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable one. Cities will need to get creative, though. In this section we’ll discuss how to develop a solid procurement plan and how cities should look beyond traditional funding mechanisms for their technology needs.

Adhere to a disciplined and integrated technology procurement plan. There are two key words here: disciplined and integrated. First, a city’s procurement plan for smart city technologies should include a disciplined business case that identifies and quantifies costs and benefits over the project lifetime. Secondly, all city departments need to be integrated in the procurement plan to ensure economies of scale, best practices, elimination of redundant purchases and interoperability.

It’s also important to think of your procurement plan as a living document, one that includes (and regularly updates) a technology roadmap that identifies the optimal sequence of investments and implementations. Of course, cities should start with whatever project they want and be flexible about taking on new projects and changing plans as needed. The important thing is that smart city projects are deployed so that they work together.

Your procurement plan should favor interchangeable hardware and software from diverse vendors to stimulate innovation and competition and to allow for interoperable systems. The plan should also establish selection criteria that go beyond just the “lowest price.” It prioritizes for solutions that are the:

  • Least prone to obsolescence
  • Most easily expanded to meet future needs
  • Most resilient
  • Most cost-effective
  • Easiest to install and use
  • Most relevant to addressing the objective

Adhering to a disciplined procurement plan can dramatically decrease overall costs. It can also greatly extend the life and value of the technologies purchased because the plan will include provisions to ensure interoperability and open standards.

Consider all funding mechanisms. Too often cities consider only a single “traditional” method to finance the technology it needs. In some regions, that method may be funding from the central government. In other parts of the world, it may be municipal bonds. But in an era when so many municipal budgets are already strained, you’ll need to explore the widest possible range of funding mechanisms. And the results may surprise you.

There are dozens of different ways to finance infrastructure. Among them:

  • Public/private partnerships
  • Performance contracting
  • Philanthropic grants
  • Development bank loans
  • Pay-as-you-go
  • Sale/leaseback
  • Revolving funds
  • Guarantee schemes
  • Utility incentives
  • On-bill repayment through local utilities
  • Local incentives and credit programs
  • Reduced permitting time
  • Density bonuses
  • Pay-for-performance

To increase bargaining power, cities should also consider joint procurements and buying coalitions with other cities, states, regions, federal agencies and the military. By considering all financing options, a city may be able to afford smart city improvements years earlier than more traditional means might allow. The sooner installed, the sooner the city will realize the payback. For more on financing options, download the Council’s Smart Cities Financing Guide. It provides detailed, expert analysis of 28 municipal finance tools for city leaders investing in the future.


Pursuing two-way communication with citizens
Smart people are the real brains behind smart cities
Smart cities are powered by technology, but the real power comes from how citizens use it and how it makes their lives better. Read why a Schneider Electric exec says open data and a citizens-first mentality are keys to success for any smart cities initiative.

Attracting talent and business
Egyptian World Heritage site launches mobile portal to enhance and revitalize local tourism
Luxor, Egypt, wanted to make it easy for its approximately 12,000 daily visitors to find tour guides, hotels, restaurants, transportation and other services to assist its tourism industry. In 2012, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology launched the Luxor Mobile Portal, powered by Microsoft's cloud services.

Offering an integrated, personalized citizen portal for services
Polish cities' cloud-based web chat improves citizen access to services
Working with Council member IBM, eight cities in Poland have adopted a virtual web chat program to improve citizen services. The program developed by InteliWISE runs on the municipal websites and uses cloud-based virtual agents to help citizens instantly access information about government services without searching on the web or making a trip to city hall.

Engaging citizens on their terms
A virtual city hall in a shopping mall
Residents of Nice, France are remotely accessing city services confidentially and well beyond normal city hall operating hours – all from a popular shopping mall. The Nice Cote d'Azur Metropolitan Area and the city of Nice joined forces with Council member Cisco to launch a worldwide pilot of the 'virtual city hall cabin.'

Promoting a smart city workforce
Miami community sets the stage for far-reaching revitalization
Working with Microsoft after the economic downturn, local officials in Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools recognized opportunities awaiting citizens and businesses in providing advanced technologies, training and job opportunities.

Disseminate timely information
Police departments find more reasons to be social
When big city media ignored the news from a suburban police department, it turned to social media to get timely information to citizens. Learn how Johns Creek (Georgia) Police are using SunGard Public Sector's platform to better connect with the community on everything from massive snow storm alerts to lost pets.