Innovation must 'disentangle' from tech as cities look to move forward
- Cities should "disentangle" innovation from simply introducing new technology and instead consider the other forms that innovation can take, including through improving processes in city government.
- At an event in Washington, DC to mark the release of the Centre for Public Impact’s guidebook, dubbed “The Future of U.S. Cities,” speakers said that being innovative can be as simple as making things more efficient in the permitting process without relying on technology to do so.
- “I think of technology as the enabling of innovation,” Andrew Buss, deputy chief information officer for innovation management in the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology, said during a panel discussion. “It's really about behavior and process on the innovation side, and then at some point a lot of times you end up using technology to wrap itself around the innovation and enable the innovation.”
The role of technology in improving cities remains important, but it appears leaders are shifting their focus away from simply introducing new technology for technology’s sake to instead focusing on the best ways it can be deployed, or if it needs to be deployed at all. In a speech at the Smart Cities Connect conference in Denver last week, US Ignite chief technology officer Glenn Ricart said it shows a “maturation of the smart city movement.”
The handbook, produced by The Centre for Public Impact in partnership with the Aspen Institute and the Boston Consulting Group, says cities must “cultivate [innovation] across the entire city ecosystem” by giving everyone the tools to devise new strategies to solve problems. It also urges cities to be agile and offer partnerships that break down silos in city departments, part of a wider push for cities to collaborate.
It notes equity is key, especially when it comes to finding innovative solutions, and making sure that groups are not left behind. “Innovation for cities is about doing things differently, engaging a diverse set of stakeholders who may not have a seat at the table, and maximizing and improving outcomes for our most vulnerable residents,” Kiran Jain, COO and General Counsel at Neighborly, said during a panel discussion.
While there may be mistrust between cities, residents and technology companies, Shireen Santosham, chief innovation officer in the City of San Jose, CA Mayor’s Office of Technology & Innovation, said during a panel discussion that there is no turning back and technology must be harnessed for the public good. “The idea of just holding the tech at bay is not something we can do,” she said. “It's really about engaging and figuring out how do we bring in these companies and help them understand the community impact before it's too late.”
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