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Intersector Briefing: Smart Cities and Cross-Sector Collaboration

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization. 

By The Intersector Project
June 20, 2017

original_Smart Cities

“Smart city” is a phrase referenced more and more often in discussions related to urban development, whether by urban planners, city leaders or tech companies. But what does it really mean? “The concept of a smart city is somewhat amorphous, but it’s focused on cities leading with technological innovation,” Brooks Rainwater of the National League of Cities told Pew Charitable Trusts. An innovation analyst for Kansas City described it as “a paradigm shift in the way we think.” Others use a more technical definition, referencing a city’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things technology (IoT) to improve its everyday functions. (This helpful infographic presents various city functions that are considered to be part of smart cities, from instant traffic updates to intelligent and weather adaptive streetlights to citywide free wifi.)

There are signs that more and more localities are working to become smart cities — Globally, smart city projects rose more than 38 percent over three years, from 170 at the end of 2013 to more than 235 in 2016, GovTech reports. The Intersector Project’s interest in smart cities is also growing, as many of the aspects of building and growing a smart city can’t be achieved by the public sector alone. This month’s Intersector Briefing looks at the importance of collaboration among the business, government and nonprofit sectors in building smart cities, from a recent smart city conference to cybersecurity issues to innovation in Tampa and more.

Smart Cities: Civic Tech Innovation and the Internet of Things

The Smart Cities NYC conference happened last month, and, according to coverage in Gotham Gazette, there was discussion of “the critical role of public private partnerships (P3) to advance the development of smart cities, for instance, government partnering with startups, telecommunications providers, and universities.” Panelists provided specifics for why non-governmental actors are so important — For instance, telecommunications companies and startups may own important digital space or data, and data scientists at universities can “make sense of information and find patterns.”

Why P3s Are the Brains Behind Smart Cities
“There’s a growing number of cities worldwide that can serve as success models when it comes to convincing the private sector about the business benefits to building smart mass transit systems as the backbone of a smart city,” writes Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO of Connectthings, in GovTech. Her focus is on smart transportation systems, but her argument—without P3s, smart city plans are unlikely to be implemented—can be applied to many aspects of smart cities.

Smart Cities Are Going to be a Security Nightmare

Providing a sobering reminder of the challenges that can come with smart cities, Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO of CompTIA, writes about the links between smart cities and cybersecurity in the Harvard Business Review. “As smart city infrastructure proliferates, the stakes for protecting these digital foundations will only get higher,” he explains. As we’ve discussed in a previous Intersector Briefing, improving cybersecurity also relies on collaboration between the public and private sectors. So not only must cross-sector collaboration be involved in building smart cities — Sectors must also work together to protect the digital assets involved.

The Three Generations of Smart Cities

This 2015 Forbes piece from urban strategist Boyd Cohen provides a helpful framework for thinking about different phases of smart city development, from tech company-driven to government driven to citizen driven. The tech company driven phase—Smart Cities 1.0— “is characterized by technology providers encouraging the adoption of their solutions to cities that were really not equipped to properly understand the implications of the technology solutions or how they may impact citizen quality of life.” The second phase, which, according to Cohen, most leading smart cities are in, involves technology, but is city-led. The third phase embraces citizen engagement and co-creation. Vienna, for example, “in a partnership with the local energy company, Wien Energy… included citizens as investors in local solar plants as contribution to the city’s 2050 renewable energy objectives. It has also had a strong focus on citizen engagement in addressing affordable housing and gender equality.” What smart city model works best? According to Cohen, “a blend of Smart Cities 2.0 and Smart Cities 3.0 probably represent the best chance for the future.”

How cross-sector partnerships are fueling innovation in Tampa
This Route Fifty piece looks at public-private partnerships and smart city progress in Tampa. “The fast-growing city on Florida’s central Gulf coast is becoming a model for how collaboration between government and business and forward-thinking leadership can foster a growing digital economy,” Amy Keller writes. “Some cities say ‘We’re an entrepreneur kind of hub’ and it all stays locked away in tech, but when you have the spirit of entrepreneurship that exists in the university and city hall and downtown and on the retail side—in the bricks and mortar of what makes a city—that’s something pretty unique and pretty special,” explained Chelsea Collier, an expert on smart cities, in a panel at the University of Tampa.


Author: The Intersector Project is a non-profit organization that empowers practitioners in the business, government, and non-profit sectors to collaborate to solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. We create accessible, credible, and practically valuable resources that are publicly available in full through our website. Visit us at Intersector.com

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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