Unlocking the secret ingredient for smarter cities

Ovum Pty Ltd

By Kevin Noonan, Chief Analyst, Practice Leader for Public Sector, Ovum
Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

Unlocking the secret ingredient for smarter cities

New city initiatives are driving a more integrated, sustainable and architected approach to digital development.

Technology is now part of the underlying fabric of every aspect of local government service delivery, including business systems modernisation, small business policy and the provision of IoT devices, such as smart street lighting. However, coordination between these technology pillars is still typically managed through loose alignments rather than through a concerted effort to bring the strategies together.

It is quite reasonable that early digital transformation initiatives have focused on particular classes of services. Priority has necessarily been given to the enabling tools, technologies and business processes that deliver the quickest return on investment. However, this has sometimes meant that the underlying infrastructure has taken second place and has been relegated to the backroom as important but lower priority work.

During Ovum interviews with city senior executives, some have noted with frustration that priority can be more easily given to ‘ribbon-cutting’ projects, such as ‘fix my street’ apps, at the expense of improvements to underlying infrastructure where there are fewer public accolades.

Earlier city initiatives saw the development of data stovepipes, and IoT-enabled smart city initiatives, such as smart lighting and traffic control, were typically treated as the responsibility of city engineers. Digital initiatives, such as billing and citizen engagement, were treated as the responsibility of the CIO or chief digital officer; and economic development initiatives, such as small business development grants and government-funded incubators, were treated as the responsibility of city policymakers.

The next generation of city initiatives is, however, providing a more integrated approach, with architected data management and better policy coordination at its core. There are a growing number of examples of well-coordinated initiatives that are driving a more fundamental approach to integration.

In China, Alibaba Cloud is already into the second generation of its City Brain initiative, with the objective of “empowering cities to think through data-driven governance”. This is an architected approach to data management across all aspects of city management, including:

  • the Urban Government Model to provide common facilities that address government administration to make the city more responsive to citizens
  • the Urban Service Model to provide efficient urban services and conserve public resources
  • the Urban Industrial Development Model to provide publicly available urban data as a catalyst for industrial development.

In Australia, the New South Wales government is addressing a different part of the problem through its Sydney Start-up Hub. This initiative commenced operations in 2017. The small business campus is the third-largest in the world and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. However, one of its key differentiators is much more subtle: the campus co-locates industry start-ups, established IT companies and offices of the key government department responsible for industry development. This enables a better environment where government decision-makers are in close physical contact with the practical realities of running a small start-up and building a business to drive innovation. Co-location enables government to drive better policy development, including open data initiatives.

The first generation of intelligent city initiatives has now created the crucial momentum for change, and the next generation of city initiatives is now driving a more integrated, sustainable and architected approach to digital development that will support city development into the long term.

Pictured: Kevin Noonan, Ovum.

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