Data aggregation, classification, availability and quality are key for the maintenance of knowledge and fueling of smart services. In times when data is more valuable than oil, cities need to understand and follow the rules of the data-based economy to maintain their attractiveness for external partners willing to trade, barter or purchase data generated by city infrastructure.
This domain, the data economy, is not captured in traditional accounting, yet is crucial for revenue generation and ROI of digital city deployments that struggle to fit in city budgets, overwhelmed with a long-list of urgent construction works.
Solving complex problems requires cooperation
The way authorities shape the future of cities is influenced by a variety of stakeholders, from residents that decide where to live, through to business owners and enterprise management that decide where to settle their offices and facilities. Neighboring cities will also be affected by such a transformation, either by competing or collaborating. Each of these stakeholders can contribute to city efforts and bring significant advantage to digital transformation, when properly encouraged. For some, this might be just the satisfaction of participation. For others, it might be access to city automation or data sets. Sometimes, mandates are a must to enforce a change, but a small tax relief might speed things up.
Some capabilities to trigger influence
There are several different ways cities can create influence to drive transformations.
A strong vision of a future city can, for example, encourage partnering cities to align and streamline discussions about shared budget for digital mobility around commuter transportation. When a city platform for data analysis is developed, a policy about data standards and interoperability, that is consulted or even shared with partnering cities, encourages them to adopt such policies. That increases the interest of private stakeholders to participate in data bartering, as it shows business potential.
Secondly, financial engagement and investment can drive a city's transformation. For example, city authorities know how to apply tax reliefs to economic development zones to attract investors or subsidize private initiatives that help cities to progress or achieve socio-economic benefits. This can also be applied to support digital transformation, for even greater benefit.
Encouraging an enterprise to contribute to city transformation with its knowledge, services and technologies pays off in reduced city investments, but, perhaps more importantly, in sharing risks and responsibilities. Enterprises are usually faster to adopt technologies than the public sector. They also, by their nature, have ways to effectively control costs, risks and identify benefits, which also applies to selection of technology capabilities.
Therefore, cooperation with the private sector might be more valuable for the digital city’s sustainability. In return, some data associated with performing public services might be of great value for enterprises that know how to use insights to improve their internal processes, go to market or increase sales.
To plan a city transformation, it pays to conduct an influence capability analysis for every city area, as well as identifying stakeholders and their interests to define synergies and long-term benefits.
As a result, any identified gaps in influence enforcement, or areas of weak influence, should be considered as constraints and removed from the activities defined in a city transformation road map.
With the right vision, financial engagement and approach to regulation, cities can effect digital transformations for everyone’s benefit.