Do Cities Really Need Innovation?

by Oct 17, 2012Announcements

Dave Hahn

Dave Hahn is the Director of Digital Strategy for Meeting of the Minds.


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Do citizens really need apps? Or should city leaders keep their focus on paved roads and zoning rules?

The question is raised in John King’s coverage of Meeting of the Minds 2012 in the San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Meeting of the Minds’ on cities’ future.

An excerpt:

Yes, cities need to innovate. They need to be more nimble. But the priorities of most people in most cities are more basic. An app that finds us a parking space isn’t as important as streets that are paved or parks that are safe. We don’t want our neighbor renting his or her apartment to short-term boarders if the folks passing through cause a late-night ruckus.

While smooth roads and safe parks are, and should be, the main focus of city leaders attention – it would be a mistake to ignore the revolution of smart city innovation and technology. Indeed, apps like seeclickfix and others can help city leaders to respond more quickly and more effectively to these basic needs of citizens. A city’s priority should not just be to make life livable, but also – as James Anderson of Schneider Electric said last week – sustainable and efficient.

Furthermore, basic needs and modern innovations are never mutually exclusive. This was made most clear last week by the presentations from three San Francisco leaders – Jay Nath, the Chief Innovation Officer of the San Francisco; Jon Walton, the Chief Information Officer of San Francisco; and Mayor Edwin Lee himself. All three presented a vision for the city of San Francisco that encouraged innovation and fostered the citizen-public-private partnerships that are needed for these innovations to succeed.

Does city innovation potentially lead somewhere “murky,” as John King suggests? What do you think? Leave a comment below to continue the discussion.

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