[As a reminder from last week, I’ve repeated the introductory paragraphs, but continue on from lesson 4.]
Mayors, governors and other local government leaders are being inundated by all sorts of “experts” telling them how to run a smart city. Often, the ulterior commercial motivation of these messages is not even well hidden.
Fortunately, in recent years, an objective and disciplined set of academic researchers have stepped up their focus on these questions.
The Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany has worked with government officials all over the world and studied their efforts to build smarter cities and use technology intelligently. As recently designated Government Fellow at CTG, I have taken a look at some of their past research and work.
Here are the last three of six lessons, which stand out to me. (By the way, it’s worth noting that these also apply in the private sector, although that’s not what CTG studied. Where it ways government, think company, and where it says citizen, think customer.)
4. Government Staff Can Be Supplemented
Lesson #4 is that cities with successful smart city services did not do this all within their own agencies.
At its simplest, CTG also saw examples where private sector partners in a city who have deep experience operating call centers can be helpful in training government staff for this kind of work. Volunteer neighborhood liaisons were also used to extend the reach of 311 and related services.
At its simplest, CTG describes examples where private sector partners in a city who have deep experience operating call centers can be helpful in training government staff for this kind of work. Volunteer neighborhood liaisons were also used to extend the reach of 311 and related services. Many times governments feel that they must take on all the aspects of an initiative, when many times there are private and non-profit organizations looking to play a role.
5. The Smart City Involves More Than City Government
From the citizens’ viewpoint, smart government services may require sharing data among different government entities. As difficult as it is to share data within a single government, it gets even more complicated to share between agencies of different governments. Understanding this complexity is critical to successful IT efforts.
As CTG reports:
“Expecting a great variety of benefits, governments around the world have initiated an increasing number of cross-boundary information sharing (CBIS) initiatives. Collaborating and sharing information in metropolitan areas is different from sharing within organizational hierarchies. Normally, government agencies in metropolitan areas are not subordinated to a single entity and their willingness to collaborate and share information is mainly motivated by common needs and interests.”
“Network organizations are an alternative to hierarchies because they are based on relationships, distributed knowledge, mutual dependency, and norms of reciprocity… Networks in fact can be an alternative to traditional bureaucratic and hierarchical solutions and e-government information integration can be a good example of that.”
Lesson #5 is that a mayor may succeed faster by facilitating these informal networks of relationships, rather than going through the arduous process of imposing cooperation through legislation and complex legal arrangements.
6. The Single Most Important Player Is The Mayor
CTG’s research all over the world highlights this single most important Lesson #6: the most critical role in the whole smart city ecosystem is that of the mayor, who must provide consistent and visible leadership for a smart city across all agencies under his/her control and those his city interacts with.
“despite important challenges, information integration initiatives can be implemented with relatively good results if there is enough political support from top government executives. … This work offers insights on how the support of the mayor can significantly influence the implementation of an information integration strategy in at least three different ways: (1) the creation of an adequate institutional framework, (2) the alignment of diverse political interests within the city administration, and (3) the increase of financial resources.”
“The executive support and political champions help resolve interdepartmental conflicts.”
As with all knowledge, these lessons may seem obvious once presented – but not so predictable before they are presented. Indeed, it is also clear from the research that not all of these lessons have been heeded in the rush to the smart city movement and the result has been much less than mayors have hoped for.
© 2014 Norman Jacknis