By: Dr. Jonathan Reichental
This article is the first in a series on smart city pitfalls to avoid. It is an extract from Smart Cities for Dummies by Jonathan Reichental.
With the focus of smart city work revolving around the use of technology, it seems intuitive to consider it a technology programme.
Following that logic, it would seem to make sense for many cities to assign the work to their information technology (IT) team. Both assumptions seem reasonable but may be mistakes.
Certainly, smart city technology is a core requirement; however, this programme is about people.
Keep in mind that technology adoption is an enabler, not the outcome. You must always return to fundamentals. Smart cities are about improving the quality of life for communities. Use this core belief to drive the work, and remind stakeholders frequently.
The risk of making a smart city strategy a technology programme and assigning it to the IT team is high, for the reasons described in this list:
- Placing the focus on technology can alienate many stakeholders. They may feel that they cannot contribute because they have insufficient knowledge or prerequisite skills. The fact is, smart city programmes have greater success when all parts of an agency and the community have high levels of engagement.
- Your IT leader and team, despite their brilliance, may not be qualified to take ownership of this multidisciplinary programme. It’s a leap to assume that knowledge of technology equates to competence in running projects that span across city domains. Sure, your IT leader may be a superstar who has the capability and knowledge to lead a smart city strategy. In that case, embrace this approach. In most cases, though, it’s unlikely.
- Placing the emphasis on technology may result in a programme that receives less priority and attention than it deserves. The smart city programme has the potential to be seen as simply another set of technology projects. The reality is that smart city work needs leadership at the highest level of the organisation and that the focus at all times must remain on benefits to people.
Despite any caveats I might give, your IT leader and team must be essential and valued programme partners. There’s little doubt that their contributions will be critical to the success of the smart city programme.
Dr. Jonathan Reichental is a multiple-award-winning technology and business leader whose career has spanned both the private and public sectors. He’s been a senior software engineering manager, a director of technology innovation, and has served as Chief Information Officer at both O’Reilly Media and the City of Palo Alto, California. He also creates online education for LinkedIn Learning. Jonathan can be reached on Twitter: @reichental
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