Smart City Collaboration: Why Those Who Share, Win

Getting to know people, their plans, ambitions and collaboration strategies, and how they tackle challenges in different cities and countries around the world is what brings value over time. After dissecting roughly 100 Smart Cities case studies over the last couple months, here are five takeaways.

What can we learn from an analysis of 100 #smartcity projects? That #collaboration is the key to #success! Click To Tweet

1. Citizen Focus Trumps Everything Else

The message comes through loud and clear that without a relentless focus on citizen value and social inclusion, Smart City initiatives will fail. This was echoed and demonstrated throughout the presentations, from early-stage initiatives such as Johannesburg, South Africa to more mature projects like Waterfront Toronto, where Rob Meikle, CIO, Toronto, outlined his city’s ambition with North America’s biggest revitalization initiative.

2. There are More Similarities Between Cities than Differences

Of course, all cities have an interest in differentiating themselves from others – in order to attract investment and top talent, as well as improve life for people who already live in the city.

When pressed, most city leaders will agree (if sometimes grudgingly!) that there are more things that bind them together than separate them. However, compared to the private sector, there isn’t a strong culture of collaboration and building shared assets between cities.

Take a look at the global telecommunications industry — where would we be if we hadn’t teamed up together and created the common standards that allowed us to differentiate on top? Imagine trying to phone home if the appropriate standards hadn’t been put in place? Cities are slowly starting to realize that through collaboration they can both share investment and unleash innovation on a grander scale.

3. City Sustainability Can Pay Off

Anthony Mallows, Director of the Greenfield Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi, offered an excellent perspective on the economies behind new city development. The financial model behind Masdar City evolved from being a state-funded project during the financial crisis to what it is today, a commercial enterprise based on the notion of a green, sustainable city. With a combination of solar energy, pedestrian clusters, narrow shaded streets, high-performance buildings, and a well-thought-through mobility strategy, they have already achieved a much better living environment (e .g . by having the temperature in the city 15-20 degrees below that in the surrounding desert). This has been achieved through a sound business model, delivering a return on investment (ROI).

4. Collaboration – Those Who Share, Win

Imagine two groups of cities: The first group decides to work together to drive best practices and create common assets for how to engage with citizens and businesses. The second group avoids collaboration and instead attempts to solve every problem individually. In ten years’ time, which group of do you think will have the most innovative, vibrant, fastest-moving cities attracting the best talent? This is indeed one of the reasons we are seeing cities starting to come together to solve common challenges.

5. One City is Not a Marketplace

Jarkko Oksala, CIO, Tampere, made the point that “one city is not a marketplace” when discussing scaling the use of data. He outlined the Six Cities initiative between six of the largest cities in Finland. Establishing a vibrant economy of data requires critical mass and the right scale but also an implementation-driven approach based on a sound city platform.

This is the next stage of data-driven cities – from sharing static, open data to creating an economy of data by enabling the use of real-time data, open platforms and common APIs – and it creates huge opportunities for growth and innovation for cities.

The TM Forum Smart City Maturity and Benchmark Model, used to capture the key aspects of a city’s transformation journey to becoming a smarter city, can be used by city leaders to assess their current situation and learn about global best practices that will help them chart the city’s future. The model is free for cities and will soon be available in the AppStore.

These insights were shared at the Smart Cities Innovation Accelerator at Dublin.

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