When a city decides to start its journey towards being a smarter city there are a number of factors that will contribute to the success of its development.
The first thing for a city to tackle is strategy – this can be viewed at as the long term vision that the city has for itself. It should not be the political ambition of a mayor or alderman, but a cross party vision of where the city will be in 20-30 years time. The city will last a lot longer than the career of any politician and therefore it is vital for them to part of the process, but not leading it.
Every city is different, both developmentally and culturally, but the long term aims of most cities are fairly similar: to increase sustainability, add economic value across all areas and to improve the quality of life for citizens. With these aims in mind cities can learn a lot from each other in the way that they approach smart city development so that they are not all making the same mistakes.
One of the key aspects of any smart city strategy should be collaboration. This collaboration can take many forms, collaboration in the city between departments that are working on sustainability with those work on transportation systems. Most cities work in silos with little or no discussion between departments, for smart city development to be successful it is vital that these departments work together towards the overall vision of the city.
Another example of collaboration can be between cities. Quite often cities do not like working together as they see their neighbours as competition, and why should they work together to help the competition. But, when it comes to the public sector cities should not work like this. By working together on projects cities can find solutions to problems more efficiently and can save a lot of money. For example: most cities have problems with too much traffic and air quality. If cities work together they can test different approaches to the problem and then come to solid conclusions on the best way to proceed.
Getting the toolbox right
Technology is the enabler of smart city development, but it is only one part of the tool box, cities must realise this and not impose technology on their citizens for technologies sake. The technology must improve quality of life, by putting the citizen at the centre of all development cities will increase the chances of their projects being a success.
City leaders must focus on getting all aspects of the toolbox right to enable smart city developments to be a success. One part of this is embracing failure, in business companies accept that failure is a big part of getting to a solution, but in the public sector it is a lot harder to embrace. This is public money we are talking about and therefore admitting that it has been spent on a failure can be difficult, but to get to the successful projects there must at first be failures. This is another reason why it is important to keep politicians out of the direct control of the projects. They should be bought into the overall vision, but the city employees need to be the ones delivering it.
Economy & skills
One of the key aspects of smart city development is linking this to the economy of a city – more economic growth means more budget and therefore more money to finance future projects. So, all projects that are put in place by a city should have a economic benefit aspect, adding jobs and wealth to a city will mean an improvement in future services and quality of life for citizens. Cities also need to employ the very best people to deliver development projects, keeping the right skills within the public sector is a big challenge for all cities as the private sector quite often pays more, so a smart recruitment and benefits system must also be employed to attract and retain the smartest people in city hall.
There is a lot that cities can do when it comes to smart city development, but getting the strategy right is the first step to creating a smarter and more sustainable future for cities across the globe.