roadblocks-smart-cities-must-overcomeSmart cities are becoming more commonplace as governments around the world invest millions of dollars in technology and infrastructure to make urban life more convenient, more efficient, and more reliable. Smart cities face particular roadblocks, not unlike those that organizations must address when they start technology projects. For this reason, implementing smart technologies will pose problems for municipal leadership. Let’s explore those.

Bridge the Digital Divide

In the same way that businesses must prepare employees for digital transformation, cities must address the social and economic inequalities that exist in urban areas. Those with access to the most current technologies will always have more, and it often stems from unequal access to education and decision-making power.

Technology is a powerful catalyst for change, but it is even more powerful when cities go beyond simply providing access to technology and work to create opportunities for their citizens to learn to use technology—both in and out of the home. Truly smart cities are providing equal access to education that teaches their citizens how to use technology to advance their home and work lives. 

Protect Rights and Privacy

Critics express concerns that smart technology does not protect the rights of digital citizens effectively. Most private sector companies that collect data aren’t legally bound to protect the users’ privacy. Many companies today harvest online data for resale. City leaders will do well to review and adopt the United Nations’ Privacy and Data Protection Principles, as they implement planning for smart city functionality.

Break Down Silos

Because most city governments are not unified entities and municipal agencies typically operate within silos, sharing data can be problematic. To work effectively, smart technology relies not only on the data it obtains from connected devices but the collaboration and insights that come from information sharing. Cities must address the issue of breaking down silos for seamless information sharing if they expect to use technology to its full potential.

Watch for Government Roadblocks and Red Tape

Government agencies themselves face roadblocks. Compared to the private sector, bureaucratic red tape can bog down public agencies, making it difficult for public agencies to keep up with technology trends. Often, government agencies must complete a request for information (RFI) and take bids before selecting a contractor that will work within strict budget limitations. If the budget doesn’t line up just right, a governmental agency may have to wait for the next financing cycle.

This adds up to infrastructure that doesn’t change fast enough to keep pace with technology. Governments don’t have the luxury of adopting new infrastructure whenever they want to, so they must work on improving legacy systems. 

Use Collected Data Efficiently

Smart cities must take steps to ensure they’re using data to maximize efficiency. They must also prioritize data based on each city’s particular needs. This requires a deep understanding of each entity’s requirements and employing data management strategies based on those needs to ensure smooth operation of servers.

Smart cities must streamline processes for adopting new technology, while still protecting the rights of their citizens and ensuring equal access for all. They must also use their data responsibly. If cities complete these tasks, they will see improved opportunities and better quality of life for all their citizens.

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photo credit: Marcus Rahm  via photopin (license)