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Tips for Creating a Coherent Governance Model for Smart Cities Work

Tips for Creating a Coherent Governance Model for Smart Cities Work

Tips for Creating a Coherent Governance Model for Smart Cities Work

There are many players involved in the successful implementation of smart city solutions, but the specific role of governance should also be a top concern. One of the challenges of smart city initiatives is that there are often small pockets of innovation activity across the city but no overall coherence. Local governance can help guide these projects, so they are approached in a holistic, thorough and thoughtful way. But how can that be accomplished?

First, there is the question of whether a special division should be created to spearhead the smart city developments or not. Having a dedicated division might cause other departments to view technological innovation as ‘not my problem.’ On the other hand, if you say that smart city innovation is the responsibility of all departments, efforts can become disjointed and lost.

Some city leaders report that, in their experiences, it has been beneficial to create a board or team that will lead smart city projects. For example, in London, they established a board as a proxy for governance, and in Bristol, they created the Bristol Futures team.

When creating such a board, there are several keys to success:

  • Decide on a set of priorities that can guide future focus and action. It is crucial that you explore the ‘why’ behind your exploration into smart cities solutions; the ‘how’ is much easier to work out when you have a solid vision.
  • Get top local authorities on board by coming together for conversation and collaboration.
  • Gather multidisciplinary players including companies and researchers who will work on pilot projects.

Don’t focus on a huge master plan. Instead, talk to citizens, identify their challenges, and pick solutions to focus on. Be agile and responsive enough to be able to change as your priorities change.


“You have to be agile and responsive enough to be able to change as your priorities change.”


City leaders should also be aware of the ability of smart city data to lead to smart politics and smart governance, where data and statistics from smart city technology can be used to govern better. For this to happen, cities may need to restructure the skillset within the government to bring in data scientists and other skilled workers to guide projects and gather insights.

It is clear that there is something of a ‘governance maturity curve’ when it comes to setting up and governing a smart city. Most cities are still on the first level of this maturity curve, but as success stories emerge we can recognize patterns and replicate best practices. Governance has an important role to play in the development of smart cities, and with good governance, we can deliver better results.

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

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