As we strive to build Smart Cities, the need for strong citizen engagement has never been more crucial. Can a City really be described as ‘Smart’ if it makes changes without consulting with a diverse sample of the citizens affected by these changes before, during, and after projects are implemented? Will citizens adopt Smart Initiatives if they aren’t part of the decision-making process? Recent case studies suggest not.
Walkable suburbs transit-connected to cities can provide regions throughout America with more affordable housing. Safe walking, bike lanes, and innovative mobility services are transforming the last miles to downtowns are regional rail. Mixed-use development at greater than 30-foot elevation provides regional resilience to all coastal cities vulnerable to sea rise, flooding, and hundred year storms that now hit every year from New York to Miami, from New Orleans to Houston, and from San Diego to Seattle.
Our goal is to improve the quality of life as well as the quality of opportunity for all residents in the community by embracing these challenges and becoming a national test case for new technologies, delivery systems, and financial models. We also want to see how the public sector, with private and impact investors could cooperate in the development, execution and management of municipal “civic infrastructure.”
It is time to start compiling our information, experiences, and results in easy to share formats for our peers in cities, towns, and counties around the world to see and learn — in consumable volumes, at convenient times. Using the power of digital platforms and the availability of public data sets, governments can connect with others who are tackling the same issues. We must harness the fact that we are less than six degrees away from a successful acquisition.
Medellín is special in that established local companies, NGOs, startups, students, and private citizens are all extremely dedicated to making their city a better place. It is part of the reason the city has been able to make so much social progress in such a short period of time. Thus, the Consejo de Datos Medellín (The Data Council Medellín) was born. Made up of representatives from the public sector, the city’s largest companies like Bancolombia and Sura, universities like UPB and EAFIT, startups, civic tech groups, and engaged citizens, the Consejo is a forum for open dialog about the city’s challenges, as well as a launching pad for data-driven projects that wouldn’t be possible without collaboration and input from all its members.
Cities have been the focal point for innovation and digitalization strategies for over a decade. From broadband deployment strategies, smart city pilots, projects and programs, to intelligent urban mobility schemes or open data initiatives: cities have led the way. Innovation agendas cannot and must not stop at city limits, however. Smart regional approaches represent the best recipe for digital inclusion, the scaling of relevant innovations, and accessibility to opportunity for all. Five points as to why we must and should consider smart region strategies for our communities.
Some experts argue that smart precincts should provide a more complex and ambitious mix of space uses and typologies in a way that that defies simple characterisation. This view goes against allowing one typology to dominate the mixed-use precinct, and sees real value in the intermix between several different functions.
Especially if the government is offering matching funds to participating groups, a civic crowdfunding platform should be able to carry the compliance burden for participants. Small volunteer-led organizations can be burdened by agencies’ requirements that they submit forms and receipts before receiving their matching funds. Similarly, the delay between purchase and reimbursement can severely restrict cash flow for groups with small or no budgets.
As a result of these pilot projects, in Kadjebi, revenues doubled in just one year, and in Elmina, the tax collection base has been increased by a factor of 20 thanks to the implementation of billing and collection software and capacity building. Kumasi has significantly increased market revenues (by 48 percent in one month) by signing a social contract with a group of women locally known as ‘market queens’. In exchange for better sanitation facilities and street lighting, which ensures an overall safer environment in which to conduct their business, these women help with the revenue collection of market fees. The large harbur city of Tema was helped to develop plans for a phased transition from outsourcing their tax collection (at a cost of 30 percent of total tax revenues) to one that is handled internally. In Sekondi Takoradi we assisted in developing a mass communication campaign to make citizens aware of the relation between paying taxes and improved basic services.
What is it about cities that makes them so influential, and what makes some urban centers grow faster than others? If we find that out, we can identify the best strategies for investing in our cities. Professor Mario Polèse has proposed five urban economics principles that affect a city’s outcomes.
Imagine that cities could be performing at the highest possible levels, and striving to act as global models for other cities. Cities can lead in prioritizing and enhancing human health, while saving energy, water and waste. Cities can be powered by clean and reliable energy, while teaching children in in a green school buildings. Cities can be affordable for even the poorest. We see that future within reach, with consistent and clear performance measurement as the path that will lead the way.