The problem with "siloed" cities

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Expensive redundancies. Despite the fact that modern IT architectures make it possible to connect city departments and solutions today, far too many cities still use a “siloed” approach to smart city applications. Individual departments build individual applications, with little regard to sharing costs, infrastructure and data. The result is expensive redundancies and unnecessary difficulties in coordinating between those isolated applications.  

This is not to suggest that cities must finance and implement dozens of investments at one time. In fact, it is perfectly acceptable to begin with just one or two projects. What is critical is that these projects all fall into a larger, integrated plan to ensure city investments are not redundant.

Lack of ICT know-how. Although industry has developed highly sophisticated ICT skills, few city governments have had the budget or the vision to push the state of the art. Since smart cities are essentially the injection of ICT into every phase of operations, this lack of ICT skills puts cities at a disadvantage. Fortunately, more and more applications are offered as a service. That is, they are hosted in the cloud where they have access to tremendous computing power, virtually unlimited storage and innovative software. Another plus is that the smart city sector has developed a large cadre of experienced global, regional and local consultants and service providers who are partnering with cities to deploy ICT solutions.

Lack of integrated services. To the extent cities applied ICT in the past, they applied it to their internal, siloed operations. The result has been a grab bag of aging applications that only city employees can use. Although this was an acceptable practice in the last century, today we can and must allow citizen access and self-service. There is no reason that citizens who want, for instance, to open a restaurant should have to make multiple applications to multiple city departments. In a smart city, a single portal can gather all the data and parcel it out to the appropriate departments. Likewise, residents should have instant access to up-to-the-minute information about their energy and water usage, their taxes and fees, their social services programs and more. And ideas like Open Data not only improve transparency, they enforce a people-first perspective that is critical in smart cities

Lack of a smart city visionary. Every parade needs a leader. Sometimes that leadership comes from an elected official – a mayor or council person who acts as the smart city champion. Smart city leadership can also come from elsewhere in the administration — a city manager or a planning director, for instance. Or it can come from outside city hall altogether with involvement from business leaders, civic organizations and public-private partnerships.