Nine examples of low investment smart city innovations with maximum output

smart city

With regards to many smart city programs worldwide, the time has come to move from the drawing board to the nuts and bolts of program implementation. A recent report by Deloitte suggests that of the total investment required for Smart Cities only 20% of the funding will be provided by the central and state governments while the bulk of the remaining funds (80%) has to come from the private sector. Given this scenario, will the private sector be able to rise to the occasion and see value in investing such staggering amount of funds? Alternatively, is there a possibility to reduce some of this investment without compromising outcomes? 

This is the time to bring in innovation that cuts down cost drastically but at the same time, delivers results.

Here are nine instances of innovation in Smart Cities with minimal costs:

1.  Innovative Problem Definition- The Brazil Example

The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil wanted to understand where are all its civic issues were? Instead of installing hundreds of sensors and cameras, IBM came up with the idea of giving the citizens a mobile app. Citizens were told- wherever you go, if you are inconvenienced in terms of waste, sewage, traffic, potholes, street lights, click a photo, the application geo codes it and sends it to the city.

In a matter of hours, IBM was able to map four square kilometers area of the city and comprehensively record every civic issue of that area. The city did not spend a penny because of citizen participation.

Can we streamline processes that don’t need as much investment as physical infrastructure?

2.  One-stop Shopping For City Services- Quebec

Citizens increasingly expect instant, anywhere, anytime personalized access to information — and they want it optimized for whatever device they are using. The web portal pictured here is from the province of Quebec, Canada, and uses technology from Alphinat. Its goal is to give businesses ‘one-stop shopping’ for virtually all of their needs – permits, licensing, taxes, etcetera. In many cities taking care of business needs requires dealing individually with numerous different city departments.

3.  Innovation in smart city governance and funding: Rio De Janeiro

A view of the Centralized Operations Center at Rio which is at the heart of its Smart City initiative

The city of Rio had long been troubled by natural disasters such as mud slides and flooding that claimed several lives and was constrained in its response to dealing with it because of departments operating in silos. The Mayor believed that a more coordinated response was required by the city, and that a control room would be instrumental in facilitating this.

To deal with this, in collaboration with IBM, the city of Rio set up a new Centre of Operations which houses representatives from over 30 different departments at any one time. This has taken huge organizational change from the previously segregated and siloed city departments. The technology has helped with the coordination of this, and according to the Mayor Mr Rosa,

“This is more than just the screens in the situation room; it’s a significant organisational shift and a degree of professionalism for us. It’s actually a whole change of mind-set in terms of how you plan, and how you deal with public management in general.”

An integrated command and control center, is at the heart of a smart city.

4.  Innovative Funding Mechanisms

The city of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, is trying to tackle its funding constraints by importing innovative ideas and management styles from the private sector, and keeping on top of innovations that come out of the private sector.

Almost 35 percent of the investment managed by the municipal government is from private investors. Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s) are being exploited in Rio to manage these investments. In the past, PPP’s had been extremely difficult to execute due to bureaucratic barriers, but regulation has since been changed to facilitate public-private relationships.

Rio now has the three largest PPP’s in Brazil, including the port renovation area, a $4 billion PPP.

5.  Stockholm: e-Government

A huge part of the smart agenda in Stockholm has been to invest in high quality, accessible e- government services.  Since 2007 they have created over 50 digital services, which has cut government management costs drastically.

6.  Crowd Sourcing

Crowd-sourcing and collective development of smart services such as real time traffic reporting, means that the citizen becomes a vital part of creating, driving and continuously improving the suite of services supporting the city. This is a very inexpensive way of involving citizens and refining implementations.

7.  Innovative Procurement Models

The city of Stockholm launched Sweden’s first pre-commercial procurement with the Swedish Transport Authority for new smart traffic solutions. Instead of procuring a solution, they have advertised the problem, with the aim of getting different companies and organisations to formulate solutions. This is an open competition, and encourages innovative and creative approaches to problem solving.

8.  Strategic Partnerships

Partnership between the city authority and local universities and business could help accelerate the smart deployment and develop a broader platform for all stakeholders to enjoy.

9.  The Common Denominator-Citizen Centric Service Model

Smart cities no longer place city governments as the top-down drivers of development in the city, but instead they act as one player in an ecosystem.

In response to this, smart city strategies should represent the needs and capabilities of a variety of city stakeholders. In particular, relationships with community groups, the private sector and universities are core to developing well-rounded and sustainable initiatives.

Putting the citizen at the heart of the Smart City rather than the governmental machinery delivering services, will be paramount for success!

About the Author: Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.


*) Featured image above: LG전자 (cc)

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