The 3 day 2018 Smart Cities Connect conference hosted nearly 2,000 attendees from government, businesses and academia from all over the world.
What are the most important lessons from this meeting in Kansas City?
1) Don’t be afraid of failure, learn from it
When we try new things and approaches, e.g. using technology to improve resident’s lives, we can not always predict the outcome. Sometimes the outcome is bad. Nobody likes failure but at least we learned what doesn’t work and can make new plans accordingly. Fear of failure shouldn’t stop us from trying new things. As Michael Pegues, Aurora, IL CIO, said in his speech, “This whole concept of failing is about learning,”
2) We should work together
For successful development of smart cities, a cooperation between different government departments and between government and business companies is needed. Business companies can offer the latest innovations and technologies that can help the citizens. The government and city authorities can determine which improvements would help their citizens and design the projects to implement those improvements. The projects boost the economy while improving the life of the residents. With thinking outside the box and new, creative approaches to solving citizens’ problems whole community can benefit. Alex Keros, Smart Cities Chief at Maven, General Motors’ urban mobility arm, described this attitude as “It’s looking at the data and saying, ‘How do we go and try new things, and make it so we can test things?'”
3) Cities must engage residents on all projects on all levels
Kate Garman, Smart Cities Coordinator for the City of Seattle expressed concerns that cities are doing smart cities projects “for the sake of saying they’re a smart city and not realizing what it’s for.” City authorities should involve citizens in the decision making process, explaining to the residents the benefits of changes and let the residents test the innovations. Residents should be treated as partners and not as a passive test subjects in this process.
4) Inclusive approach – changes should benefit everyone
Cities should make all their citizens’ lives easier and better. That means that all residents should benefit from the changes and improvements made in the city. This will bring long term prosperity. A good example was presented by San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell. He discussed the city’s plan to provide all the residents with high speed internet. This will give the poorest citizens better access to jobs and make them more included in the society, closing so called digital divide. “If closing the digital divide alone is the only thing we get done, I will tell you my time in public office has been worthwhile,” Farrell said.
5) Smart cities are becoming the norm
“If we don’t build smart cities, young people are going to leave”, warned Bob Bennett, Kansas City, MO’s Chief Innovation Officer. Therefore city leaders must consider how to incorporate smart city innovations into their municipality. A good starting point is renovation of infrastructure. A lot of cities in USA will have to invest in new infrastructure soon so now is the best time to start discussing which smart city innovations to implement.