By: Dr Jonathan Reichental
Government workers often take the brunt of stereotyping that characterises them as lazy and unproductive.
A few of those might exist, but isn’t that true in every industry?
The truth in my experience is quite different. I’ve worked in city government for many years, and I’ve also interacted with many of them all over the world. In that capacity, I’ve often encountered the most passionate, selfless and hard-working people I’ve ever met.
Some of the work can be thankless, but still, so many do the necessary, routine work of ensuring that their government services can function.
What also strikes me is the volume of important work that gets done that nobody notices and is never publicised.
Few cities have marketing departments, in the private sector sense. Sure, they have communications teams who do vital work — such work may even include creating campaigns to attract businesses and tourists — but the everyday achievements of most cities are lightly reported on municipal websites and, at best, in local newspapers.
Smart cities hit the headlines
In other words, cities can do a much better job of telling their stories. Given the broad interest in smart cities, this work has received more attention than many of the programmes that cities work on.
The scale and transformational potential of the work is attractive for journalists and analysts, and so a decent amount of new content is being produced on this topic.
So much of it, though, is being led by third parties, not by the city itself. Managing the narrative may be limited to infrequent press releases. Cities need to tell their smart city stories. They need to do this as not only a marketing tool but also a way to keep their communities apprised and engaged. They also need to do it to help other cities.
Of course, they’d love to share only the good stories and best practices, but enormous value lies in sharing the failures as well. Of course, no city leader wants to expose the bad things that happen, so this strategy won’t be wholeheartedly embraced. However, the value in sharing those failures not only demonstrates transparency and honesty but can also be helpful in communicating the complexity and difficulty of the work for the benefit of other communities.
Embrace and share your smart city strategy strengths and weaknesses.
More communities will reap the rewards of this approach and, as a result, many more may prosper. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
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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