A city is a service organization that provides value-added services to its residents. The city’s operating environment and services involve virtually every area of human life, including transportation, housing, healthcare, employment, education, and cultural and recreational services. Digitalization enables cities to provide digital services without constraints of time and place.
The rapid population growth in cities creates challenges for municipalities to ensure the quality of life for their residents. A report by World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted that 91%of the city population breathes polluted air and 40% have no access to safely managed sanitation services.
The transformative power of digital technologies can improve the quality of life and environment of cities.
Opportunities for digital transformation
Utilizing digital technologies for value creation in cities
Smart cities use digital technologies systematically, focusing on the widespread use of information and communication technologies (ICT). ICT as a single technology is used to store, process, and transit information. Cities can utilize a vast amount of data from various sources- The data generated by citizens when utilizing city services, captured by IoT devices, and collected by statistical departments, among others. Cities cannot predict the future, but they can monitor what is happening worldwide for future readiness.
With almost 500,000 residents, the Rennes Métropole and 42 neighboring municipalities are among France’s most vibrant cities. The city developed a virtual twin city that grew over a digital 3D mock-up of the metropolis to mimic the effects of fresh initiatives and policies, it examined the results of an initiative to revitalize the city’s Maurepas neighborhood, which included the construction of a new metro station.
Stakeholders from the public and private sectors worked together early in the planning process using the virtual twin. The initiative has proved that technology without replacing humans or human decision-making facilitates the necessary transformation of governance.
Data-driven participatory planning
Most cities oversee a vast array of passive and active data collection tools that document the experience, priorities, attitudes, and satisfaction levels of their residents. Census, elections, and surveys are examples of information-gathering tools.
Citizens are also using open-source and crowd-sourced data collection and sharing initiatives. While a great amount of data is increasingly available, it is not well organized, structured, or optimized. Engaging citizens in creating and designing city plans are more open and participatory approach. The days of centralized planning are disappearing with an increasing array of digital tools available for city-level planning and decision-making.
Table: Data-driven participatory planning
Skopje is one of the capital cities in Europe without wastewater treatment. The city developed a Green City Action Plan to identify and prioritize investments and actions that address its environmental challenges. A new wastewater treatment plant is planned using modern sludge management technology. Also, it will use biogas as a by-product which will generate its own power through biogas remediation.
The project aims to ensure asset resilience, improve water quality and optimize energy consumption.
Governance is a broader term than government. In addition to the political dimension, it constitutes institutional and administrative dimensions. In the contemporary setting of digitization and digital innovation, good governance is vital. Digital technologies present possibilities for enhancing public sector efficiency, strengthening the efficiency of policies, and establishing more open, transparent, innovative, accountable, and participatory governments.
Canada introduced a local smart city initiative called the Smart City Challenge to leverage digital technology. To ensure that all communities could participate, the government enacted a series of incentives to assist small cities in developing their proposals. It promoted a community-oriented idea of development openly and transparently.
Implementation, operation, and management are vital to address how successful a digital solution has been in delivering the intended outcome.
Cities must implement digital solutions in phases, establishing priorities based on factors such as impact, urgency, and simplicity of deployment. Cities have to allow phase beginning with a pilot strategy incorporating the appropriate stakeholders and users and enabling a feedback mechanism back into the design and development phase at each stage.
Administrators must develop a plan for future design and implementation as the installation of a digital solution matures and scales.
Implementation includes not just the technology parts of the digital solution, but also the corresponding people, procedures, tools, and infrastructure. A thorough change management strategy is essential for facilitating and training both the solution’s administrators and users.
Prioritizing and aligning the digital strategy with the city strategy is important. To utilize digital technologies, cities need a skilled and powerful organization capable of creating and implementing digital solutions. To ensure the success of digital city strategies, it is essential to synchronize objectives, efforts, and resources across all levels of government and among all stakeholders.
Also, addressing citizen’s need proactively brings indirect benefits to the city. New tools have been made available by digital technology to engage people and other stakeholders in establishing a city’s vision for its future, its primary challenges, and its potential solutions.
The article is based on the report: Using Digital Technology for a Green and Just Recovery in Cities