Digital City Services: Page 3 of 19

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Singapore provides a great example of a city that embraces cross-cutting collaboration. Launched in March 2003, the SingPass system gives customers a common online password to interact with all government agencies. Nearly five dozen government agencies provide nearly 300 digital services, including business registration, tax filing, and passport applications.


Singapore is a world leader in e-government. Residents can gain access to nearly 300 e-services with a single sign on.


Data overload. City employees struggle to find information, spending hours updating spreadsheets or waiting for answers, even though data is being produced in much larger quantities from a wider variety of sources. Yet much of that data is left unanalyzed, robbing the city of the alerts and insights that can dramatically improve results.

Governance and change management. Many cities have not yet made the transition to a digital mindset. They are not set up to manage cross-cutting initiatives that require departments to collaborate. They may also have antiquated procurement regulations that make it difficult for departments to buy shared equipment, shared services or cloud-based solutions.

If you are building a system that will affect 10 departments, who’s in charge? Who pays? Who has the right to access the data? Who has the obligation to update the data? Who’s in charge of security?

And what if you are building a system that will affect 10 other cities? Governance issues are magnified and complicated by geographical boundaries. A large metropolitan region may have hundreds of different cities, towns, districts and agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and conflicting agendas.

Lack of interoperability. When the state of Illinois set out to modernize in 2015, it discovered that it had 85 separate ICT departments, each with its own agenda, priorities and budget. Many cities are in a similar situation. They operate with a disparate collection of standalone systems, making it difficult and expensive to share data and share costs. Even when cities switch to smart technologies, they discover that the industry does not yet have all the needed standards in place, forcing cities to be slow and cautious lest they end up with isolated, disconnected systems.

Lack of capacity. Many cities lack employees skilled in cloud software, Internet of Things, citywide networks, data science, interface design, mobile computing and the other new technologies that come together in a smart city. They must rely on academic, philanthropic or private-sector help to get started while launching training programs to build digital skills. Without adequate technical and managerial talent, cities cannot keep pace with the increased demand for urban services. Indeed, they may not even be able to adequately manage and monitor the companies that work for them.

Privacy and security. Some cities hesitate because of data privacy and cybersecurity fears. As the Readiness Guide states in the chapter on Foundational Principles, citywide policies for privacy and security are essential before beginning your smart city journey.

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