Think tank calls for cities to embrace the digital revolution

Cities that fail to learn from the approach taken by leading smart cities around the world risk lagging behind, an Australian business lobby group claimed last week.

The best and most successful global cities are becoming data and tech driven and combine smart governance with smart city technologies, said a new report by the Committee for Sydney.

The report calls for a digital revolution in government in New South Wales, modelled on best practice from global cities around the world. And it illustrates how some of these smart cities are transforming how they communicate with residents, how they design and deliver services and how they create economic opportunities for businesses in the digital era.

For example, the website allows Chicago residents to make and track a wide range of service requests, such as road damage, faulty lighting or abandoned vehicles. Local authorities can also analyse the data to help them respond better to community needs. And an Open Data Portal gives access to more than 600 data sets, which have been used by local tech developers to create civic applications, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In Paris, a crowdsourcing platform and participatory budgeting process called ‘Madame Mayor, I have an idea’ lets citizens propose and vote on ideas for city projects. A similar platform, ‘Better Reykjavik’, operates in Iceland.

These initiatives are encouraging innovation and opening up business opportunities whilst fostering a civic identity and enabling the government to enhance interaction with citizens, offering them a stronger voice in the way their city is managed, said Dr. Tim Williams, chief executive of the Committee for Sydney.

Martin Stewart-Weeks, co-author of the report, also talked about the increasing disruption of business models and governance in cities, and the move towards collaborative economies.

Cities around the world are exploring how digital technology, platforms, data and citizen behaviour shape our cities and the way we live. The impact of this is clear, with hugely popular peer-to-peer initiatives such as Uber shaking up business as usual and tapping in to the shifting mindset towards shared consumption, he said.

In the future, the success of a city will depend on how well it exploits the governance and engagement possibilities of digital tools and data and involves citizens in shaping services and opportunities, the advocacy group concluded.

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