- The National League of Cities and the Internet Association released a report examining the future of cities in the digital economy. It examines new jobs in U.S. cities from the internet sector, and the policies and approaches used in case studies in Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, MO; Phoenix; and Pittsburgh.
- The study found that the internet sector has a strong presence in all major U.S. metropolitan areas, and a larger internet sector correlates with higher productivity, population and income levels, and lower poverty and unemployment. However, city policies drive innovation, not city size.
- The report offers insights for other cities to develop their digital economies, in the form of four general lessons and four specific areas of application.
Based on the cases studies in the four named cities, the report put forth the following lessons for city leaders and stakeholders: capitalize on historical and cultural assets, emphasize economic inclusion, have a willingness to experiment with new programs and build well-rounded labor markets and diverse economies. Also based on the case studies, it offered the following areas of application: transportation systems are critical, open data systems provide win-win opportunities, fast pilot projects in procurement systems and partnerships are key to achieving policy goals.
The report intentionally avoided examining the well-documented development of famous tech regions such as Silicon Valley or Seattle for its case studies and instead chose four cities that are still developing their internet policies and approaches. They serve as examples of how other cities can evolve and successfully drive their own digital economies. The report states: "Each of the case studies are in the beginning stages of a positive tech-driven urban revitalization and offer precisely that type of perspective."
Columbus, Kansas City, Phoenix and Pittsburgh all were found to have an internet sector presence higher than the average U.S. city, in terms of tech businesses and employment. However, the cities are not equal in their tech presence based on population size. Columbus and Kansas City have internet sectors that are disproportionately high based on their populations, whereas Phoenix and Pittsburgh do not. That fact prompted the researchers to conclude that although cities drive innovation, city size is not necessarily tied to innovation, and that small- and medium-sized cities can have thriving tech sectors.
Strong policies regarding digital advancements are important to cities not just from an economic and employment perspective, but they also help the evolution into a smart city. Smart technologies not only increase a city's efficiencies and responsiveness to residents, but also create better and more equitable urban environments, the study says. Having digital policies and approaches in place and performing tests helps cities to avoid challenges such as inequality.