Every city – regardless of its size – should be looking to develop smart city capabilities, says technology trade association techUK.

In a new report titled ‘Demystifying the smart city – working towards better implementation’, cities are being urged to embrace partnership opportunities with technology companies to enable innovative delivery and engagement practices for smart initiatives.  

It comes at a crucial time for local authorities which have found themselves at the frontline of multiple crises.

Intended as a guide for city leaders, the report outlines the fundamental steps councils must go through when planning, consulting, and delivering smart initiatives. This includes the need to set out a long-term vision for projects and embedding digital into existing strategies to encourage a cultural shift around the role of technology within all elements of service provision.

Rewriting the approach to stakeholder engagement has also been recommended. Ensuring siloes are broken down and for collaboration to occur at multiple levels across the city to unlock smarter decision-making is viewed as a fundamental step for any city developing capabilities in this area.

A severe lack of trust in public institutions also means that local authorities and technology partners must have established processes for listening to the views of communities and that they are brought into the process from the outset.

The report observes how partnership working can greatly increase spending power, insight and delivery capabilities and outlines innovative approaches needed to deliver on the ambitions of a smart city vision, including new approaches to procurement, financing and reporting.

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“Smart cities have the potential to deliver transformative benefits for local areas and councils are leading the way in showing how powerful technology can be in improving citizen outcomes, strengthening the economy, and protecting the environment,” said Georgina Maratheftis, associate director for local public services at techUK.

“However, smart city projects are woven within layers of complexity which can often make the delivery process difficult and susceptible to failure. We hope this report will start to unpack some of this and pave the way for more projects which are outcome led and based on collaboration and best practice at this crucial time.”

techUK’s report was developed in partnership with organisations including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Jacobs, DG Cities and Newcastle City Council. 

Matt Armstrong-Barnes, chief technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and chair of the techUK Smart Cities Working Group, said: “The evolution of interconnectivity is accelerating the paradigm shift toward embracing information and technology to enhance citizen welfare and government services.

“Optimising operational efficiency and building effective operating models aligned to a clear smart cities vision is paramount to the success of digital strategies. 

“techUK is a driving force providing clear navigation on the road to smart cities and this report is a culmination of collaboration between techUK and its member organisations.”

Earlier this year, techUK published a separate report which made the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives.

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