Jul 06 2015

How Technology Is Helping Cities Meet Innovation Challenges

San Francisco hosts a summit on how cities can use technology to battle growing problems.

San Francisco held a City Innovate Summit last month, bringing together city leaders from around the globe to explore ways that technological innovations could solve some of today’s major urban issues.

As Government Technology reported, the major issues discussed included everything from aging populations to energy consumption to infrastructure.

“In order to make great and livable and thriving cities we have to think and work collaboratively,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said, according to GovTech.

San Francisco has been one of the nation’s leaders in bringing innovation into city hall. Of course, it helps that the city is nestled next to Silicon Valley, but it’s also taken an open mind from city leaders to break down the traditional ways that government approaches problems.

In his introductory remarks, Lee highlighted his city’s innovations, among them a six-year open-data initiative, a citizen-backed maker movement and partnerships with the local civic tech accelerators Code for America and Tumml.

San Francisco has also been an innovator inside government, becoming the first major American city to transfer to Microsoft’s Office 365 suite and providing free Wi-Fi in the city’s public parks and in its Market Street business district.

“Cities today are the engines of the greatest surge in innovation, creativity and problem solving in human history … and cities that think of themselves as platforms will become stronger, attract better talent and become smarter from the bottom up,” Lee said.

Metropolitan areas have turned to technology to solve some of their biggest problems.

According to Government Technology, Soichiro Takashima, mayor of Fukuoka, Japan, told summit participants that his city is facing an aging population that needs more and more medical care. In response, the city may turn to health-monitoring apps (think Internet of Things) as well as preventive-care checkups for senior citizens.

Herbert Bautista, the mayor of Quezon in the Philippines, described his city’s struggle with energy consumption and waste management. Consequently, Quezon will use a new technology that burns wastes and converts it into energy.

And in San Jose, Calif., infrastructure innovation is a top priority. The “capital of Silicon Valley” has set aside an 11-mile Transportation Innovation Zone to test out technologies such as self-driving cars.