As smart cities continue their inexorable growth, administrators must ensure that they are able to deliver the modern services that new data and insights make possible. In many cases, this means that the administrative landscape will have to evolve along with the smarter cities they are running.
What’s the best way forward? With the promise of myriad new services that smart cities will enable, how best to configure your staff to administer these services? Atlanta has a Chief Bicycle Officer and, until last year, Oregon had a Chief Electric Vehicle Officer. Will we start seeing Chief WiFi Officers, Chief Parking Officers, Chief Congestion Officers, and Chief Pedestrian Officers? With so many potential new services that smart cities could offer, you can’t appoint a C-suite executive to oversee each individual one. How can cities ensure that services are administered properly, information is collected and utilized effectively, that alarms and alerts from connected sensors are responded to in a timely manner?
Earlier this year, global digital business association TM Forum launched a Smart City Forum to bring together more than 100 leading smart cities and governments worldwide to discuss and resolve smart city challenges. Data Informed spoke with Carl Piva, VP of Strategic Programs at TM Forum, about how smart cities are addressing these challenges and what smart city governments will look like in a few years.
Data Informed: How is the rise of smart cities influencing the organization of municipal governments?
Carl Piva: Cities and national states have always competed for influence. Going back to the Greek and Roman times, city-states sometimes played a more important role than nations. During the Renaissance, the Italian city-states took a lead in culture and commerce.
In our lifetime, the national states have played the dominant roles. There are signs that this balance of power is once again shifting, moving back to the influential cities of the world. Cities are the modern hubs of innovation, and the actions of cities can dictate national agendas. The rise of smart cities is part of this process and will speed up innovation. We will see larger metropolitan areas form, or smart regions for that matter, that may alter the dynamics once again.
What are some of the biggest challenges that governments find themselves facing as smart cities continue to evolve?
Piva: Competing for talent and investment on one hand, and shaping rigid bureaucracies on the other. Cities need to become green and citizen friendly to attract the best and brightest, which is a prerequisite to gain investment dollars in new ventures and growth. To become a smart city, you need to connect the various islands in your city to be able to offer a citizen-centric experience. This can’t be done unless you horizontally integrate your city.
For many governments and officials, this is uncharted territory. How can they determine the best way to proceed?
Piva: Learning from best practices is a good start. TM Forum has developed the world’s first comprehensive, end-to-end smart city maturity and benchmark model. This model allows a city to rate itself against 45 smart city dimensions and set bold targets for the future. Cities also can identify how they can improve based on the references we provide to global best practices. We invite cities to take part in this global effort and use this in the same way you would use a map to get from where you are to where you need to be.
What are some of common pitfalls that governments fall into as they attempt to remake themselves to successfully administer smart city programs?
Piva: There is a skills gap that is really difficult to plug. A real smart-city strategy is created around the citizen – driving citizen value. In a way, this is similar to how we have seen web-based companies ripping holes in the balance sheets of large multinationals with offers created to delight the customer.
The pitfall for cities, assuming they find the funding, is that they will simply line up a number of “smart initiatives,” forgetting how incredibly important it is to design them with the customer in mind.
What are you finding are some of the least anticipated challenges that governments discover they are facing as they attempt to address issues related to smart cities?
Piva: Good question. One might be the cultural change effort that’s required to mobilize the city staff. Another could be the democratic changes in political leadership that sometimes force these initiatives to be halted or refocused.
What new skills will governments need to acquire in order to remain effective as smart cities grow?
Piva: Designing propositions around the citizen is certainly a skill that is required. Collaborating across city departments to deliver on a customer promise is another. Understanding how to team up with other cities to gain scale advantages is a third. Building the case for innovation is always difficult, as this needs to traverse citizens, city hall, and city departments.
What new titles are we likely to see in the government of a smart city?
Piva: We have seen positions as diverse and granular as Chief Bicycle Officer and Night Mayor. At the end of 2014, IDC predicted that the number of Chief Digital Officers will grow fivefold in cities by 2018. A number of cities have already appointed Chief Digital Officers, including the City of Melbourne and New York City. This post holder will be responsible for speeding up the digital transition of the city and to link everything digital in the various departments across the city. Other roles that we clearly see on the rise include Chief Data Officers and Chief Citizen Officers.
When do you anticipate that the basic structure of a smart city government will be fully evolved?
Piva: Hopefully never. When we hit the targets we can envision today, I am sure that we will have evolved our thinking and set new targets, perhaps calling this something else. The fundamental aspects of a smart city, as we define it today, will still take decades to see implemented in most cities.
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