As mayors and city managers work to capture revenue from non-tax sources, strategic use of technology will become increasingly important. The mainstreaming of SmartCity technology is creating unprecedented opportunities for civic leaders to improve quality of life through cost effective initiatives in the areas of economic development, civic engagement and digital inclusion.
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How do you define a ‘smart city’?
Fundamentally, smart cities use technology and process innovation to improve the quality of life for all stakeholders within a community. One could make the case that thanks to broad adoption of SmartPhone technology and broadband wireless, most cities are already ‘smart.’ However, so far, it is the private sector that is leading. City management is responding rather than proactively initiating a coherent strategy for harnessing smart technology in a way that improves quality of life for residents and visitors. It is an incredibly exciting time as a number of social, cultural, geo-political and technological factors are converging to drive a tremendous amount of innovation in this space.
What are some of the problems cities can solve by using digital technology?
Let’s start at the most fundamental level. In most cities, residents can usually tell you where their city hall is located. And yet, when it comes to online presence, the city is pretty much invisible. Most residents infrequently engage with their city’s website. In addition, when we visit other cities as tourists, do we use the city’s site for information? Probably not. We go to search engines and third-party sites. The time has come for that to change. The city should be as visible online as they are offline. The enabling technologies to provide a number of online consumer services such as e-commerce engines for dining, lodging, retail, business licensing and permitting are now available, increasingly mature and cost-effective. We see massive opportunity for technology to enable breakthroughs in the areas of economic development, civic engagement, government workflow management and public safety for cities of all sizes and demographics.
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How can the technology benefit local retailers, restaurants and other businesses?
Civic leaders can now bring mature cloud-based technologies to respond to what analysts refer to as the ‘extraction economy.’ When a resident buys through OpenTable, Expedia, Amazon, Airbnb or Wal-Mart, money leaves the local economy. Even credit card processing fees are a tax on the local economy. By providing a centralized transaction-centric solution on web and mobile devices, the city’s rhetoric of ‘buy local’ can be implemented in a practical way that keeps money in its economy.
What are some of the barriers to adoption? How can cities overcome these?
It is easy to view deployment and change management as a challenging task. I recommend city managers identify the exact problem they are trying to solve. We believe that there are solutions to a myriad of challenges large and small. City managers can keep deployment challenges to a minimum by working with versatile providers of cloud-hosted technology solutions in order to selectively solve pressing issues, while keeping a larger road map in mind for becoming a smart city.
Robert Monster joined DigitalTown as CEO in 2015, bringing significant experience with him. Among his many accomplishments, he founded and served as managing director of Monster Venture Partners LLC, and founded Global Market Insite (GMI), which was acquired in an all cash transaction by London-based WPP Group that valued the company at more than $100 million. Prior to founding GMI, he was a global product development manager at Procter & Gamble. Monster earned both a BS and a MBA from Cornell University. He was recognized as Ernst & Young’s 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year. He also authored “Market Research in the Internet Age,” published by John Wiley and Sons.
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