- Local government network ELGL and startup UrbanLeap will partner on a one-year program for 25 small-city and rural governments to collaborate on solving issues.
- The "Small Places, Big Ideas Innovation Cohort" is aimed at jurisdictions with populations of 30,000 people or less, although larger ones can also apply if they wish. Its plan is for the participants to identify common issues they face, test solutions and share best practices.
- "UrbanLeap is working today with big municipalities such as Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and the County of San Mateo [in California],” UrbanLeap founder and CEO Arik Bronshtein said in a statement, per Government Technology. “We want to bring the same tools and best practices to smaller municipal agencies, too."
While a great deal of the focus in the smart city movement is on high-profile cities and their initiatives, the importance of small cities cannot be underestimated. The U.S. Census Bureau says 47% of cities have a population of 1,000 people or less, meaning that there is still a significant number of people who live there, and not just in major metropolises such as New York.
With issues around transportation, budgets and climate change facing all cities, those problems can be exacerbated in smaller jurisdictions that lack the finances to pay for the big, sweeping solutions that others can afford. In areas like climate change, studies have found smaller cities can have an outsized impact on reducing the country’s emissions and leading the push for using renewable energy sources. A report by global risk management company DNV GL found some small cities with their climate goals “go far and beyond” the Paris climate accord, and with a further push, can do even more.
Collaborations like this between ELGL and UrbanLeap could be key in helping smaller cities and rural areas reach their full potential, especially as it emphasizes collaboration on pilot programs and the sharing of best practices, something that has become increasingly important as the smart city movement takes on an increasingly regional focus. Technology such as 5G has been hailed as a potential game-changer for smaller cities and rural areas as a way to close the digital divide, but collaborations such as this allow cities to take matters into their own hands.