Should cities license their own intellectual property?

4th November 2016 Jonathan Andrews, Richard Forster

Jonathan Andrews and Richard Forster asked a select panel of cities to explain the management structure of their smart city programmes, the impact of data and analytics, and whether or not cities should license their own intellectual property

 

How would you define the role of CIO in the city administration and how has it evolved?

Chan Cheow Hoe, CIO, Government Technology Agency (GovTech), Singapore

Our role is very simple: we are the central agency that works with city-planning agencies to develop tech solutions to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of their operations. For example, GovTech worked with the Municipal Services Office to develop an app called OneService that enables the public to report municipal issues, such as choked drains, to the right agency, without the inconvenience of being channelled from one agency to the other. In the past we tended to look at just ICT infrastructure, systems, enterprise IT; but now we are making sense of data to develop apps and solutions.

 

Brenna Berman, CIO, Chicago

As the CIO and Commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) for the City of Chicago my role has three parts. I am responsible for all of the operational technology that city departments depend on from email to enterprise applications to mobile apps to critical infrastructure. I also lead the mayor’s [Rahm Emanuel] data-driven innovation portfolio, which includes our smart cities projects. I also spend some of my time focused on tech-driven economic development.

 

Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, Dubai

The Smart Dubai Office is uniquely positioned as one of the few government ‘offices’ which is structurally different from government departments. These offices are leaner, more agile and more entrepreneurial, so we have a lot of support to try new approaches and innovate. Collaborating with our partners from different government entities, as well as the private sector unifies everyone to work towards the same goal. No one entity can make the city smart: we need to leverage the expertise of everyone.

 

 

Iñigo de la Serna, Mayor, Santander and President of the Spanish Smart Cities Network

The role of the CIO is to guarantee that the ICT infrastructure of the municipality is evolving according to both technology availability and societal demands. It is important that the CIO is always alert to promptly detect new trends and possibilities brought by ICT. The latter implies that the CIO should have an important creative sense. The CIO’s responsibility has evolved in the same manner ICT has done during the last 30 years. In the last decade, CIOs led the deployment of e-administration services aimed at easing the interaction of citizens with the municipality.

 

Jörn Riedel, CIO, Hamburg

ICT-governance started in Hamburg more than 20 years ago with pure financial IT-control. In the early days it was driven by IT development. That changed a lot over the years especially as government came to see itself as a service provider for society. Now and in the future we have to work with the target groups and create smarter services so customers don’t feel that it’s government–more that it’s a part of a citizen’s life like a service-account where they can easily find all the digital paperwork they had with the government.

 

 

Young-Hoon Choi, CIO, Seoul

The role can include guiding the implementation of ICT within the administration and establishing and managing the shared infrastructure and platforms. Seoul has established a new Digital Master Plan every five years, and the goal of each Master Plan has evolved from computerisation to online service to ubiquitous access to smart service. The goal of the new Plan, announced in 2016, is to improve the lives of the citizens through encouraging citizen participation and digitalisation.

 

Is the CIO leading the transformation process in terms of the adaptation of ICT for projects across different departments or is this driven by other managers/departments with the CIO’s team acting as an implementing or support agency?  

Chan, Singapore

GovTech adopts three models. The first model is we own the technology and applications as the central agency that supports the entire public sector. The second model is that we work with other public agencies as a technical consultant and implementer, while the agencies focus on their core domains and operations. For the last model, we function as an IT enabler. These three models co-exist, and shape our role and function as the government’s CIO.

Berman, Chicago

Successful transformation projects must always have strong business and technology leadership and likewise, a successful project will always address a clearly defined business challenge. Even when my team is delivering an IT infrastructure, we communicate the benefits of that project in clearly defined business terms so I am sure to build buy-in from the business leadership of the other city departments. 

Bin Bishr, Dubai

We are unifying and enabling the Smart Dubai initiative by providing department leaders with the blueprint, tools and regulatory framework to achieve our smart city mandate. We are supporting our partners across the city to deliver an ambitious roadmap which was designed with input from over 22 public and private sector partner entities. Guiding the city through a collaborative transformation, we are able to benefit from the experience of all of our partners. For example, the Dubai Energy and Water Authority is leading initiatives that are contributing to a smart environment; the Dubai Economic Department is leading smart economy initiatives, and so on spanning all six smart city dimensions: economy, living, governance, mobility, people and living.

de la Serna, Santander

I tend to say that the CIO plays both roles. There is no doubt that the CIO is responsible for establishing the innovation strategy aimed at improving the sustainability of urban services while guaranteeing the involvement of different city stakeholders. However, it is also his or her responsibility to conciliate the different views and demands coming from other departments.

Riedel, Hamburg

One person does not lead the transformation process in Hamburg. Several ministries and departments have their own IT responsibility but the Ministry of Finances takes the lead with the budgeting. As the CIO (Ministry of Finances) one of my topics is to deliver innovation, standardise when necessary, and force cooperation all over the city. Therefore we have a team of 20 people we send out as in-house consultants. It is a ‘joint-venture’ of a group of colleagues having the central responsibility for IT, organisation, budget and human resources.

Choi, Seoul

I play a role as a controller of the ICT investment of other departments through assessing and managing their investment decisions. Amid the increased uncertainties in the course of change, the CIO not only acts as a controller but also a supporter who finds the opportunities of new technologies and guides their adaptation. While planning and implementing the five year Digital Master Plan, I seek to balance the role of supporter and controller.

This year Chicago will deploy its Array of Things sensors to understand more about the city’s environment
This year Chicago will deploy its Array of Things sensors to understand more about the city’s environment

How has the importance of data management and analytics affected your role and the management of city services?

Chan, Singapore

When we speak about managing city services, the key word is optimisation. Resources are finite and Singapore doesn’t have a lot of land to keep digging and building new infrastructure. Citizens’ expectations are also changing and in this age of data democracy, they are demanding the government be like the private sector and startups in delivering digital services and products that are intuitive, timely and citizen-centric. The development of our app Beeline brought together the government, the private sector and citizens, to address a public transport need creatively, with data and analytics.

Berman, Chicago

The impact on my department, my role and city services is profound. As the first city in the US to name a Chief Data Officer, Chicago has led the way in demonstrating the impact that a robust and comprehensive open data and predictive analytics programme can have on a city.

Early on, it was important for us to think strategically about the skills and organisational structure that would ensure the scalability and sustainability of the programme. Scalability meant building a team made up of not just data scientists but also with data savvy project managers and business architects that can work together to empower departments to adopt data innovations. Sustainability meant moving the fledgling open data and predictive analytics programme out of the mayor’s office and embedding it in the IT department where it could grow without political constraints and become a shared service to all departments.

This year, we move head first into the world of sensors as we deploy the Array of Things, which will bring us more data about Chicago’s environment and activities than we have ever had before.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

Data is the fuel of any smart transformation. In October 2015, we announced the Dubai Data Law, which kick-started an ambitious and a comprehensive Dubai Data initiative to open and share all city data. We are working closely with nine pioneering government departments to prepare their most relevant data sets to begin the process of publishing open data in the next six months. The Dubai data approach is built on collaboration between government entities and will pave the way for a new culture of data sharing and excellence in Dubai.

de la Serna, Santander

Apps such as our own Pulse of the City, has drastically changed the way in which incidents, reported by citizens, are managed. As mayor of the city I was convinced that improving the perception of the city meant being able to quicker fulfil citizens’ demands and have continuous contact with them. For the CIO there are also implications. Having access to all the data assets generated by the urban services means that he or she has a holistic vision of what is happening in the city. Last but not least, there are also consequences for service managers. The availability of real-time data enables them to reconfigure the service according to existing needs.

Riedel, Hamburg

Of course data management is an important topic in the coming years particularly in the context of traffic and logistics. A growing metropolis like Hamburg has to keep an eye on different data bases to analyse and solve challenges.

Choi, Seoul

Data utilisation is very important when it comes to increasing transparency and accountability in policy decision making and providing administrative services. In 2015, Seoul created the Data and Statistics Division which is in charge of data collection and management under the leadership of the CIO. This division’s role is to open up public data which includes conventional statistics and designs and implements big data policies.

In terms of resources for so-called smart city programmes, how are these determined and what challenges are you encountering in trying to get projects off the ground?

Chan, Singapore

We have various inter-agency committees that look at various criteria, which include resources, what projects deliver the best value and so on, before we embark on any Smart Nation-related project. The public sector is meticulous in our planning and the key is to optimise resources and programmes. Having said that, there is the challenge of getting different agencies to row together in one common direction. But a collaborative approach invariably comes out top because, as a city-state, Singapore has a single layer of government–and this is why, we are confident that we can become a Smart Nation.

Berman, Chicago

Chicago doesn’t define a specific smart cities programme. We carefully define and analyse our challenges and the needs of our residents and businesses. Often time, connected technologies, or the Internet of Things, are helpful in addressing these issues. Resources are prioritised according to need with input from the administration, elected officials and residents.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

The Smart Dubai Platform is a large-scale undertaking that will require technical expertise and open collaboration to deliver. We will be building the platform in collaboration with du, a local ICT provider, in a unique public-private partnership that is considered the first of its kind. This approach has allowed us to design a smart city platform on a scale not seen before globally, that has been specially crafted to meet the requirements of our ambitious citywide mandate.

de la Serna, Santander

We started the smart city programme with a budget from European Union research projects and collaborated with strategic partners such as the University of Cantabria, which encouraged us with the SmartSantander project. Now as mayor, I have a much clearer idea of the potential associated with technology, I try to foster its use in most public procurements. Indeed, we are trying to practically implement the Public-Private Partnership paradigm aimed at improving services without extra costs for the municipality.

Riedel, Hamburg

Smart cities is one of the initiatives in which we discuss innovative projects with several companies on a memorandum of understanding basis. This is more like an experimental laboratory and there are not only pure Hamburger government tasks in the focus, it’s a wider range like e-health and traffic, among others.

Choi, Seoul

The decision on allocating ICT resources is made annually through budget planning and approvals by the city council. This process has caused a few issues as it does not reflect the characteristics of ICT-related projects. First, the cycle of decision making for ICT-related projects is too slow to catch up with the fast evolving pace. There is also little room to change the accounting decisions due to rigidity. Second, the system to encourage the participation of the private sector is too broad. Third, the cost for maintaining and repairing operating systems has increased, but the size of resources hasn’t kept pace so that Seoul is losing its power to invest in new projects. In order to resolve these issues, Seoul is trying to make a systematic improvement.

Do you agree cities are better leaving the risk of designing and making apps to the private sector rather than organising their own competitions or hackathons which do not seem to lead to scaleable or citizen-driven solutions?

Chan, Singapore

I think innovation can thrive in both the public and private sectors because both feed off each other’s qualities and strengths. When the public sector organises a hackathon competition, I don’t think the end outcome is looking to discover the next killer app that will solve or tackle a major challenge, although we will be delighted if it happens! Rather, we see hackathons as an avenue for the industry and ordinary citizens such as students from institutions of higher learning to come together, have fun and develop something with potential, a process which we call co-creation. If something has the potential to be commercialised from a hackathon, the private sector can come in and provide the funding to get it off the ground.

Berman, Chicago

Cities, especially their IT departments, need to think carefully about the role they should play in providing solutions directly to residents. In some cases, it makes sense for the city to provide a platform for civic innovation that drives development that meets the specific needs of residents such as publishing data that can be leveraged by companies, non-profits and civic developers. In other cases, cities may be in the unique position to develop a tool that meets specific needs. With the growing use of open source tools, cities can even collaborate with outside developers and other cities to extend their reach and ensure sustainability.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

A collaborative approach is taken to everything at the Smart Dubai Office. Government entities create their own apps, we embrace and support locally made apps by the private sector and we also host hackathons and competitions to encourage people to create more innovative apps and services. The Smartprenuer Competition hosted by Dubai Chamber in partnership with IBM is one example, where local entrepreneurs are designing new services for a smart city, aligned with our six dimensions. Careem and Fetchr are great examples of two locally made apps which have totally changed the mobility landscape of Dubai.

de la Serna, Santander

In my opinion hackathons/competitions have a twofold objective; first, to encourage citizens and other communities to become active in the smart city paradigm. This has many advantages such as making the city more inclusive or shifting the productive model towards a new one based on knowledge linked to ICT. Second, it enables us to identify new solutions related to issues that either were not detected as a priority by the municipality or in which the solutions so far proposed were not attractive enough. The fact that the development of the corresponding apps has some constraints in terms of scalability or even usability should not be a barrier for further refinement that could be eventually supported by the private sector.

Riedel, Hamburg

I agree with this. We try to generate a climate that appeals to companies to be creative, like app agencies, working with data from our open data portal.

Choi, Seoul

The current app outsourcing system and one-off hackathons have limitations due to the lack of means to compensate the participants. Therefore, we need to go beyond compensating hackathon participants and improve the management of their results. We need to help private sector developers to become the centre of service provision by guiding them to align their business models with services. But during this process, the government needs to be more involved in developing services with fixed demand, targeting marginalised and disadvantaged people. Seoul tries to go beyond opening existing data and pushing forward to open the functions of the government by converting administrative services into API [application program interface] form.

Rather than reinventing the wheel each time, should we get more cities to jointly invest in technology to share or pool investment costs to achieve the same benefits? What are the barriers to cooperation and do you work with other cities to share investment costs?

Chan, Singapore

I do admit, that if you look at some selected cities which are on a similar level of development, there can be a possibility for them to collaborate. But it will not be plain-sailing as there are also things like resources, cultural norms, even government regulations, that throw a spanner in the works. For Singapore, we see ourselves as a living laboratory where we test-bed smart solutions, and export these technologies to similar cities that share common characteristics with us, for them to pilot or implement in their own backyards.

Berman, Chicago

Joint development is an idea that has been discussed by many cities but that requires product development skills, something that most cities do not have great depth in. While the spirit of cooperation exists, the facility to co-develop high quality products would need to either come from a third party partner or be developed by the multi-city consortium.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

We believe that international collaboration is as important to our success as a smart city as local collaboration. In 2015 we established a partnership with the ITU to collaborate on the first global smart city index, defining international sets of standards for smart city KPIs [key performance indicators] that would serve as a roadmap to smart transformation globally. At Smart Dubai, we want other cities to learn from our experiences so they too can create benefits for their people. Everything we do at Smart Dubai will be shared with our global peers so that Dubai can become a blueprint for smart city transformation, particularly in the emerging world.

de la Serna, Santander

One of the key factors for mass adoption of technologies and services is linked to the ability to share experiences among cities. Another key factor is related to standardisation. We, as city managers, have to convey to the telecommunication equipment vendors and service providers a common message on those issues which are transversal to most cities. Afterwards, it is just a matter of tuning transversal solutions to the specific needs of one or another city. One tool which has shown itself to be quite useful is the creation of smart city networks at the national level. City representatives share their main needs and solutions which they make available to other cities to replicate with small investments.

Riedel, Hamburg

Apart from other areas of Germany, the northern part has a very good culture in cooperation. With five states (Hamburg is a state and city in one legal body) Hamburg founded the IT service provider Dataport in 2004 which is a public organisation. Through this organisation we promote cooperation and share technology. Hamburg was and is always open for improvement for additional cooperation. Cooperation needs time to develop, but I think we are marching on. We are open to European networks, for example the Major Cities of Europe or the Microsoft City Next Initiative.

Choi, Seoul

I agree that joint investments in technology by cities have an advantage in the aspect of efficiency. However, considering the customisation costs caused from the differences in societal, cultural, economic environment and systems of each city, there is a limit for joint investments. Moreover, a single standardised system could hurt diversity of technological innovations. It’s better to find a more flexible approach than a simple joint investment. Seoul led the establishment of WeGO(Word e-Government Organization of Cities and Local Government) in 2011 which consists of more than 100 local governments over the world. Seoul has shared its ICT experiences through WeGO.

Have you seen a shift in how ICT companies are working with cities given the pressure on budgets and criticisms over vendor lock-in? What are your messages to the technology companies that promote “smart” solutions?

Chan, Singapore

I don’t think any city or government wants a scenario of vendor lock-in. Governments and cities are becoming more open-minded and are now looking at who can provide the best bang-for-your-buck solution. So things like company’s size, stature or even brand doesn’t really matter. As long as the technology or solution is relevant, innovative, can be deployed speedily and cost-effectively, smaller companies will succeed, irrespective of their size.

Berman, Chicago

I am starting to see a shift from the traditional vendor-city relationship, especially around emerging solutions. New models for joint development, public-private partnerships and other forms of intellectual property sharing allow for all parties to define a risk and reward model that captures the nature of the development work that goes into building a new solution.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

In our experience, we find that the best partnerships with vendors emerge from collaboration towards a shared goal, rather than purchasing solutions off-the-shelf. For the Smart Dubai Platform we engaged in nearly 18 months of meetings with city stakeholders and potential partners to collaboratively design a platform that was best suited. When we made the final selection, and chose du to become our strategic partner, it was with the confidence of a shared vision of success for all parties.

de la Serna, Santander

When working with city administrations, companies have to offer solutions which fulfil the budgetary constraints of public tenders. I would not say they offer lock-in vendor solutions. Indeed the tenders usually demand solutions guaranteeing interoperability with existing standards. In terms of the message to the technology companies that promote ‘smart solutions’ my main concern is the adoption of sustainable solutions which guarantee their replication.

Riedel, Hamburg

My message to companies working in the field of smart cities is: think in long-term perspectives! In cities with a good economy and an optimistic mindset, the infrastructure changes in five to 10 year timeframes. If you try to implement a business-case in which you need sensors in the whole city and you dream of a return of investment after five quarters, you will fail.

Choi, Seoul

Seoul has strived to upgrade relationships with ICT companies from a supplier-consumer relationship to partners that co-create the ecosystem. In 2016, the mayor of Seoul hosted a meeting for Seoul and ICT companies to discuss ways to do joint projects and this meeting is planned to be held regularly beginning in 2017. Since the speed of technological innovation and the areas of application have expanded, the uncertainties of the market have increased and improving close relationships with users will be key to success in the market. Seoul’s highly advanced ICT infrastructure and our citizens’ high adaptation of new technology provide a very good environment for new technology to be materialised.

London announced last month that it would license its smart travel card system to other cities through a global deal with its private sector partner. What potential do you see for cities to license their own IP and technological solutions to other cities? Is there a danger of creating an elite group of cities rather than engendering a global collaboration on solutions which action on climate change requires?

Chan, Singapore

I don’t see a limit for cities to license their technology solutions to other cities so long as they can be leveraged. Not all cities are at the same level of development and it is idealistic to expect every city to work together on common solutions for all cities. At the risk of forming an elite group of cities, what is undeniable is that it is more practical and possible to have these cities that are more developed to work on solutions that can be customised or replicated for less developed cities. Technology can perpetuate the divide between the haves and the have-nots, but we can also harness technology to help developing countries to ‘level up’.

Berman, Chicago

This approach is not new but there is new potential for cities to influence the development of products that meet their need over time if cities play more than a revenue sharing role in these types of joint partnerships.

Bin Bishr, Dubai

We believe cities should take pride in their smart solutions, and to share their solutions across the globe, if possible, under the most suitable legal and financial frameworks. We are considering similar opportunities with some Smart Dubai initiatives. Like the earlier question asked: why re-invent the wheel? This can be a winning situation for both parties. When provided as a customisable solution, this can also be a great opportunity for emerging cities that might not have the ability to implement a solution from the ground-up, but can easily modify an available city product to meet their specific requirements.

de la Serna, Santander

In my opinion such an approach goes in the opposite direction to the one for succeeding in the rapid and mass adoption of technologies and services in the smart urban context. Cities are unique living labs open to companies, researchers and others. If cities set up barriers, in the form of IP rights or the equivalent, we will be killing the process. Concerning the second question I do not believe at all that an elite group of cities will be created but just the opposite. Those cities will be ‘islands’ in a sea of cities collaborating in an open framework.

Riedel, Hamburg

Personally I think that this is not a solution that fits the cooperation of non-profit-organisations. When we create communities of cooperation between cities and states and the federal government in Germany we often have very different starting points. In our agreements we always find solutions for the different situations in any of the participating organisations. If we would try to transfer these solutions in a licensing agreement, it would be a very complicated. For us one of the goals with cooperation is to get as many as possible on board, because even a small contribution helps all participants to lower the costs.

Choi, Seoul

To develop consistent policies and technology, it appears reasonable to secure some level of return by adopting a proper system of rewards. However, in terms of diverse technological innovations, it’s not desirable for a company or city to monopolise a single standard technology that decreases competitiveness in the long run. Also, the economic and technological environments in developed cities are different to underdeveloped countries, making license development difficult. It’s hard to guarantee that successful solutions from a group of elite cities could be successfully applied to other countries. Therefore, it’s more desirable to offer successful solutions in an open source form to secure an indirect way of getting rewards when other cities apply and improve them.

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