Despite the often-discussed diversity issues in the tech industry, women are making important decisions daily that are shaping how cities around the world innovate. To paraphrase Beyonce, women run the world.
Smart Cities Dive agrees that women are a crucial part of smart city development, and therefore has compiled a list of some of the must-know women (and their projects) in the space.
Chief Innovation Officer, City of San Jose, CA
Santosham leads the efforts to build a smart city vision and strategy for San Jose. Located in Silicon Valley, San Jose talked to their neighbors in Menlo Park and became first city in the world to test and deploy Facebook's "Terragraph" technology, a service that provides free Wi-Fi service throughout the downtown corridor. Santosham wrote that free internet service helps bridge the digital divide for its own citizens and could be be the trial run for the rest of the world. She also worked on the city's first open-data policy, which will open up more 600 datasets in machine-readable formats for the public by 2020.
Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, Microsoft
In her role at Microsoft, Townes-Whitley helps government officials get more use out of their Microsoft products. She’s also aims to make sure Microsoft is a digital leader for inclusion. During her talk at the Smart Cities NYC conference, Townes-Whitley announced that Microsoft, Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict), and World ENABLED were launching the Smart Cities for All Tool Kit. The toolkit provides city planners with an actionable guide to make sure cities are more accessible for the over 1 billion people with disabilities.
"It can't be a smart city if it doesn't empower each and every one of its citizens," Townes-Whitley said from the stage.
Chief Information Officer, City of Orlando, FL
Orlando was one of five cities to win a grant from the Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge, which the city will use to "develop a comprehensive smart city plan that fully integrates multiple city departments and regional stakeholders." Akhtarkhavari has worked for the City of Orlando for over 24 years and currently serves as the CIO, helping to steer those efforts.
The grant is helping to determine the best ways to tackle multiple projects, like rebuilding a main highway in Florida that runs through Orlando's downtown, to upgrading a smart grid, to expanding public safety resources. She’s already successfully led efforts to replace the police records management system to a more integrated system.
CEO & Founder, Connecthings
When Gazel Anthoine started Connecthings in 2007, her peers thought IoT meant sticking a SIM card into a device. She got push back on her bigger plans.
"Explaining that there is maybe another way to see IoT was not exactly the way they wanted to think," she said.
Anthoine knew there could be more. Connecthings now uses contactless technology beacons based on open standards like NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and QR codes. These beacons can turn passive, urban assets like light poles or benches into smart interaction points, able to initiate two-way communication with smartphones and other mobile devices.
Connecthings now works in 60 cities in Europe and in Rio de Janeiro. She said with 130,000 beacons online, Connecthings runs the largest Internet of Public Things network globally.
Executive Director of City Digital, UI LABS
Public-private partnerships (P3s) play a huge role in cities rolling out smart projects. Berman has experience working in the public sector – her former CIO position in Chicago – and private sector – her decade at IBM – across the smart city landscape. Her most recent job is with UI LABS, a consortium of industry, academic, community organizations and government sectors working to expedite P3s that can tackle the big problems.
As CIO, Berman helped the city plan for its Array of Things (AoT) project, a sensor network attached to structures throughout Chicago that can measure everything from air quality and traffic congestion to noise levels. At UI LABS, she will still be working with the city of Chicago, and said she is focusing in on pilots around human-centered mobility, supply-side logistics and transportation of goods and sustainability/emergency management.
City Manager, City of Las Vegas
Fretwell came on as city manager in 2009, just as the financial crisis was gutting the country, with Las Vegas hit especially hard. That didn’t stop her from achieving some major successes since then. Last year, the city (which does not include the famous strip) reached its 100% renewable energy goal.
That wasn’t the only green goal Fretwell achieved, as Las Vegas also received a 4-Star community sustainability ranking in 2015. About 2,300 intersections are also in the midst of getting sensors to improve traffic. This year, autonomous buses ran a route downtown, with more testing in the future. In July, she’s joining Switch as senior vice president for the technology company’s new smart city division.
Chief Technology Officer, District of Columbia
Appointed and confirmed in 2016, Archana Vemulapalli is already setting up Washington, D.C. as a world-class smart city. Need proof? A few months into her tenure, D.C. became the U.S.’s first “Lighthouse City,” a Cisco project to award cities that pioneer smart city infrastructure. Vemulapalli has been a part of D.C.’s new “open by default” data policy, bringing in smart streetlights and the Pennsylvania Avenue 2040 project, adding IoT devices along Pennsylvania Avenue to help visitors and residents alike. She finds time to co-chair the Council of Global City CIOs (CGCC), a group that brings together CIOs to share data and lessons learned to transform cities, a group she also helped found.