Sep 12 2018

How Digitalization Creates More Citizen-Centric Cities

Cities face challenges to achieving digital transformation, but can do so with new technologies and partners.

Digital transformation is more than a technology play — it is the key to survival in all industries, including the public sector. But to truly reap the benefits of a successful transformation, the process needs to be strategic and purposefully built around industry-specific goals and challenges. 

Before diving in, local government leaders should first analyze where they now fall in the digital transformation process, and ensure that any next steps will continue the journey toward a resident-centric city. 

A panel discussion at the recent SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference focused on how pockets of innovation are found across some public sector services. However, the real challenge is updating all sectors throughout an entire enterprise — in this case, a city — to create a mechanism for these advancements to drive value back to core functions. 

When cities can offer innovative businesses and organizations for their residents, they can help reach their goal of effectively and proactively engaging residents and providing them with the best services. 

Reaching this goal may be easier said than done. 

The public sector faces a challenge as the world’s population continues to urbanize. To rise to the challenge of increased development and habitation, city governments can adopt new technologies to drive sustainable development, attract new businesses, educate the population and provide for residents, even if the government might have limited resources itself. 

These solutions and services help put the resident first, which is the ultimate mission for the public sector. Cities have faced limitations in the past on the journey to becoming citizen-centric, but they can overcome these challenges, and there are a few cities leading the way through innovation.

What Is Holding Cities Back on Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation has been slow in cities because of shrinking government budgets, limited skills due to retirement of civil servants and a siloed approach to tackling problems at a departmental level. 

According to IDC, over 50 percent of cities in both Europe and the United States are only in the early stages of adopting technologies for the future roadmaps of their cities. Many cities are pressured to do new things with smaller budgets, and the challenge for many cities is that they become too focused on trying to fix and improve older aspects of the urban environment rather than adopting new technology that can have a stronger impact for the future.

Cities cannot accomplish a digital transformation alone. Cities can and should work with local businesses, such as utilities and transportation providers, to create a holistic, digitalized experience for residents across multiple touchpoints and industries. Even within government structures, leadership can take advantage of connecting an entire city with technology, expanding across departments such as finance, workforce management and capital asset planning to take advantage of data and insights rather than working in silos.

Discover the 3 organizing principles of digital transformation in government!

Cities Can Pull Ahead with New Technologies and Partners

There are several technologies that cities can consider adopting to enable a citizen-centric atmosphere. Cloud services are proving to be a low-cost alternative to replacing high-cost and high-maintenance legacy technology systems. Low-cost sensors combined with wireless communication can monitor a variety of factors that impact the public sector, from air quality and water pipes to traffic flow and available parking. 

For example, New York City has hosted Citi Bike since 2013. These bikes are Internet of Things machines, collecting data from cyclists in the city over the past five years. The data from bikes can show when people ride, which stations are used the most, top destinations and most popular times to ride. 

Ultimately, this data creates profiles of riders and provides their travel preferences. New York City made a commitment to learning from resident preferences to create a more personalized travel experience through cost, convenience and marketing, with a goal to target the right customers.

Internationally, Buenos Aires has adopted a cloud-based platform that allows residents to upload pictures of potholes and other travel problems directly from their mobile phones. Through cloud-enabled sensors installed in infrastructure, the city can provide real-time feedback to residents and make it possible to fix reported issues in under four days. 

Make Residents a Priority by Increasing Digitalization

City residents are searching for updates in technological innovation in cities, and are settling in cities that create personalized experiences and put their needs first. Smart technologies give cities a competitive edge in increasing overall resident happiness, but for successful digital transformation to take place, governments need to understand where they stand on their digital innovation journey and where they can advance to benefit residents. 

Cities are responding to the influx of new technologies at their own pace. However, those cities who have invested in technology have been able to provide residents with upgrades, such as personalized transportation services, accurate marketing initiatives, on-demand access to improved infrastructure and more. 

These improvements to daily life are possible through harnessing data from technology to create a more connected and personalized relationship between a city and its residents

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