Governance in a digital age, by Salomon Salinas, smart cities lead at Accenture Mobility

How are smart cities governed with so many points of data collection and analysis?

Imagine you’re walking through a public space – your home, your city, perhaps. The traffic lights sense your approach and turn red, allowing you to cross. The electricity grids regulate their own power and the streetlights are turning on as you approach. Data is being used differently.

It has the power to redesign the way we live and work.

The internet isn’t just restricted to your tablet, phone or laptop anymore, but opened up to public services. Infrastructure has come alive by collecting, analysing and interpreting data. Not only can this make your environment respond to your specific needs but it can be used to do essential preventative and reactive maintenance to avoid disruptions and maintain efficient running of your home, office or city.

Integrating digital technology and real-time analytics into a city’s infrastructure can vastly improve the way a city operates – it’s what makes a city smart.

We probably don’t even realise the scale of change that is happening right now, as cities and municipalities get plugged into the Internet of Things. But how are smart cities governed with so many points of data collection and analysis? Who is responsible for this information and how is it managed? How can technology and long-standing public institutions come together to make public services safer, greener and smarter?

Smart cities are about improving services, not simply installing devices which is why each piece of the smart city puzzle needs to fit together to create a whole new ecosystem.

Smart cities are where digital technology meets infrastructure — leveraged across the likes of transport and traffic management, construction and buildings, energy and water supply, and waste management as well as services – like public administration, health and safety, culture and education.

Governments, councils, businesses and service providers are each responsible for different interactions and experiences citizens have when going about their lives in a city. And the expectations are high. Citizens expect their services to function simply, efficiently and sustainably.

A consortium of representatives from each institution that plays a role in running a smart city is critical if smart cities are to work optimally. Local governments will have to be completely re-figured to ensure that each piece of the puzzle fits together and is continuously managed and maintained as part of one smooth, coordinated and on-going operation.

Smart cities, first and foremost, must start with the needs of their inhabitants, not with the types of technology they might want to consider. It’s about building new services through human-centred design, putting people first.

A new style of leadership and collaboration is required as planners, leaders, citizens, businesses, technology and local governments come together to form a consensus around smart cities…Sounds challenging doesn’t it? But where cities have started to do this, the results are impressive.

Yokohama Smart City in Japan is an example of joined-up thinking. In the city’s on-going efforts to cut CO2 emissions while boosting economic growth, for example, it is rethinking how the city deals with energy use, not just from people’s homes and cars, but through to the wider community, bringing together data from a range of city functions.

This integrated approach rarely happens on its own: it requires new governance structures such as a dedicated executive to own and drive strategy. While some cities are setting up smart city boards to guide strategy, there is still a clear need to grapple with execution. To do so, cities such as Amsterdam, Chicago and Singapore have appointed cross cutting CIO or CTO roles to turn strategy into reality. A move I think will ultimately pay dividends, and which we’ll see replicated in other cities around the world.


Based in Washington DC, Salomon Salinas (Sol) joined Accenture in February 2010. He leads Accenture’s global smart cities practice within Accenture Digital and its North America sustainability practice. He is a sustainability expert with 22 years of experience across commercial and public sector clients. Sol was as one of the founders of ENERGY STAR, where he served as a director from 1991 to 2005. He then became assistant office director for the EPA Office of International Affairs (OIA), as part of the North America sustainability practice leadership team. He is happily married to his wife Heather and has five children, aged 25 years to 26 months.


Source : Smart Cities World