- A report from the Center for Data Innovation concludes that communities cannot transform into smart cities on their own; they need support from the federal government. Communities should make the majority of investments and decisions about becoming a smart city, but national governments should fill in gaps.
- The report names five key challenges that are difficult for even the most advanced cities to overcome on the way to becoming a smart city: too much risk, lack of focus on smart infrastructure, the need to ensure equity, lagging communities of practice and the need for interconnected smart cities. The authors suggest that national governments can offer solutions to all of these problems.
- While federal government assistance may be necessary, in many cases it is temporary.
The report draws conclusions about cities and national governments around the world, not just in the United States. Financing is the obvious way that federal governments can boost smart initiatives in cities, which frequently struggle to come up with enough money for projects. The basis of becoming a "smart city" heavily relies on technology and digital infrastructure, which can be prohibitively expensive. Alleviating some of the financial strain also reduces communities' risk for implementing new ideas, which is one of the sticking points the report identified.
But "support" does not only mean financial assistance. National governments can provide leadership and coordination in cases where cities might not be able to. Federal government coordination is possible not only at the individual project level, but also by ensuring that community projects across the country — or even just across certain regions — have adequate collaborative networks in place for sharing ideas and information with each other. Collaboration tends to offer a more solid path to success than going it alone. Learning strategies from other communities can help cities avoid mistakes, which again reduces risk.
The report found that widespread collaboration is lacking at the local and regional level, and that federal governments largely haven't yet incorporated it into their legislation. It also claims that national governments still focus too much on funding traditional infrastructure rather than digital infrastructure.
On the surface, the conclusions in this report might seem to go against conventional wisdom about smart cities: that each community should work at a local level to cater its advances to the needs of its community. But the report stresses collaboration and supplementation, not fully allowing federal governments to implement policies or programs in communities. It suggests that communities should continue their forward progress while networking with other cities, but they should also identify areas where they could use federal help. The report also calls on federal governments to support cities without becoming overbearing, basically filling financial and leadership gaps as necessary. The federal help often is temporary just to get a project off the ground or to smooth its way to completion.