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Cities Today talks to innovation leaders about what they achieved this year and what they’re looking forward to in 2022.

Q: What achievement are you most proud of in 2021?

Andrew Collinge, Advisor, Digital Dubai

Keeping going! It has been another year in which collaboration and progress have been hard won. It is for this reason that I am most proud of the work done on the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance open data policy. One of five initial policies, our group of colleagues across the globe in Japan, the US, Australia, Europe, and South America drew on deep experience, backed up by generosity of thought, constructive challenge and collaborative spirit.

The result is a policy that has genuine practical impact for cities embarking on an open data journey, and a core group of open data cities committed to implementing it and learning from one another.

Recognising the broader importance of thoughtful urban technology governance, it was genuinely rewarding to see the wider scheme scoop the Governance & Economy Award at the 2021 Smart City Expo World Congress.

Sherry Schoonover, Deputy IT Director, City of Topeka

We have created a services portal that provides more streamlined, easy-to-understand instructions and information about the services we provide. Included are online forms – eliminating paper and PDFs – with built-in workflows to route the information to the appropriate departments, reducing the application time significantly. This actually received a 2021 project award from the Center for Digital Government.

We also rolled out a chatbot to provide quicker information to our customers. In addition, the city hired a technology specialist for our digital inclusion project to assist our constituency with technology issues.

David Graham, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Carlsbad

We’ve seen advancements in digital equity, digitising manual processes and finding new ways of connecting with the public.

We’ve deployed our full fibre digital information network in the city, connecting up all of our facilities to very high-speed internet, and 90 percent of that is using existing fibre.

Connected to that is the passage of our first city-wide data policy. You would think that more cities would have a city-wide data policy, but most don’t. People deal with data with band aids and sticky tape, trying to piece together systems that don’t talk to each other and people that are inexperienced with using data. With the passage of our city-wide data policy, we set the structure and framework for the way that everyone collects, uses, governs and publishes data.

We also created our first Age-Friendly Action Plan. During the pandemic we used digital tools to connect with older residents, including virtual sticky notes and geo-mapping feedback tools. This created a sense of community and gave us greater insights for our plan.

Aruj Haider, Chief Digital Officer, Westminster City Council

We created our smart city vision this year and have begun delivering some quick start projects. We’ve trialled Alexa devices for people with learning disabilities in adult social care, and put air quality sensors outside schools to encourage behaviour change around travel choices. We also launched our first-ever Christmas augmented reality experience in four locations across the city.

Our digital inclusion work has focused on understanding the nature and extent of digital exclusion in the city by using data and insights from our engagement with residents and mapping and persona work. We have also launched our digital academy tailored to our communities’ needs including the Tech Lions programme where we have employed nine young people in Westminster in software engineering, data analytics and digital marketing.

Our digital inclusion work has inspired the pan-London Digital Inclusion Map and has won the national Smarter Working Live award for Collaboration, Communication and Engagement.

Q: Which challenge is your number one priority to address in 2022?

Andrew Collinge, Dubai

We are now part of a bigger entity – Dubai Digital Authority – with a more ambitious and far-reaching agenda to digitise the economy, society and city life generally in Dubai. Connecting digital technologies and our data work to precision outcomes across the labour market and city services, and addressing some needed structural improvements in the data infrastructure of the city is hugely exciting and will be central to everything we do in 2022.

Within this context, my biggest challenge is to reshape the data strategy for the city, and to do so across data governance, data management and publishing, ending with data analytics and new data technologies that achieve genuine cut-through to the heart of government decision-making.

Sherry Schoonover, Topeka

Limited budget and resources force us to take a more streamlined approach to providing services and assistance to our customers. So we are holding a digital strategy workshop to leverage cross-functional teams to potentially use innovations around processes we identify as critical to transform.

This will generate a digital strategy with a three-year roadmap of transformation initiatives to redesign or build prioritised stakeholder journeys, or experiences. We are creating an overview of value streams and value chains prioritised for transformation, and a customer journey map outlining goals, opportunities, and metrics.

David Graham, Carlsbad

We will be increasing connectivity by replacing many different proprietary networks and connecting them all up to our digital information network. This is about addressing the ‘Frankenstein of networks’ you get with different networks for traffic management, water monitoring and other sensors.

With the digital information network, a big part of this is connecting up the IoT the city currently has to a single network or to as few networks as possible. That improves security, reduces time as it relates to upgrades and it also improves your communication and data-gathering.

We are also launching a Civic Innovation Academy inside the city. We just launched a new learning management system that allows us to source a lot of content, so we’re going to leverage that plus city-generated content to have a cohort of city employees annually or hopefully twice a year go through civic innovation training which will accelerate that inspiration of ideas, including things like design thinking, connected communities, technology, and continuous improvement.

Aruj Haider, Westminster

We are aligning our smart city aspirations with our climate emergency work. We are exploring how we can empower businesses to reduce their emissions through clean tech, one of the core pillars of the smart city strategy. We are supporting businesses to carry out carbon audits and action plans to understand their impact and provide insights into what clean tech they can deploy to work towards becoming net zero.

We are also aligning our smart city approach to where we are facing financial pressures. We spend £19 million (US$25 million) a year on leaks and 49 percent of enquiries to call centres contain the word water. If we can predict and prevent leaks there could be investment cases for deploying smart technology.

Q: What interesting project can we look out for in 2022?

Andrew Collinge, Dubai

In January we will launch a technical research report on synthetic data. This is important for us because it is a window on the future of data publishing and value creation, and as such marks an advance in the way that a city like Dubai releases data and works with our ecosystem. In short, synthetic data uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create copies of sensitive datasets. These copy datasets retain the structure and patterns of original datasets and eliminate privacy risk in a way that traditional data transformation approaches, such as randomisation, cannot. This means that high value data that has rightly remained under lock and key in government or private sector data silos can now be released.

In the wake of this research report, we will prioritise synthetic data publishing opportunities to support use cases that have fallen apart due to data privacy concerns, as well as enable multi-organisation or cross-sector data collaborations in areas like sustainable energy and finance where safe data-sharing is a must. We will advance other important aspects of our work on data monetisation and wider governance accordingly.

Sherry Schoonover, Topeka

We will focus on a lot of business intelligence and analytics projects. We will also continue to define a smart cities strategic plan and looking for innovation projects, such as using Lidar for our construction projects.

Aruj Haider, Westminster

We are a citizen-led smart city so the project we are most excited about is the implementation of projects within the Westminster Innovation Challenge. We have just closed the first Public Westminster Innovation Challenge with 194 submissions received and in 2022, we will be going through those entries, judging them, prototyping them and using this involvement with the communities to create the future roadmap of Westminster’s smart city.

David Graham, Carlsbad

Our Strategic Digital Transformation Investment Programme was approved this year. It is a capital improvement programme for technology. So when the City Council adopted the budget this year, they adopted three elements: operations, capital and technology.

By embedding it in the financial process and through the regularity that the City Council will be considering and improving that plan, we address the issue of the outdated ‘zombie’ technology plan, which can fall by the wayside in cities when times and personnel change.

The implementation of that and the projects that will come out of it are going to be really valuable.

One thing that this year has taught many people is that we can be more and do more than we ever thought. A 2022 tragedy would be if we forgot that lesson.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Sarah Wray

Quelle/Source: Cities Today, 17.12.2021

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