Want to Build a Smart City? Partnerships Are Key


Connecting state and local government leaders

US Ignite, Verizon, Intel and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told a SXSW gathering that it’s all about a driving commitment to partnerships.

AUSTIN, Texas — Every city official seems to have their eye on building a smarter, more connected city. But what does it take to make that happen? According to a wireless innovation panel on Friday at SXSW, buy-in from leadership and creative partnerships are key—along with a massive commitment to advancing broadband infrastructure.

The panel featured Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as well as representatives from US Ignite, Verizon, and Intel.

Here are some of the takeaways and quotes . . .

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on national challenges and competition between cities:

“The competition is helpful for cities. We have the largest Google Fiber deployment in America going on right now. The process for Google choosing to move forward with . . . deployment required an enormous amount of coordination [and] really tests the city across the spectrum.”

“Last year when we were at [SXSW] we were competing for a transportation award from the U.S. Department of Transportation. We didn’t win it, but we were in the top tier. And so this work causes your team to 1.) focus on the issue; 2.) to get comfortable in the space; 3.) to open up their minds and get more aggressive and now coming to us with more ideas about what to compete for.”

Building the right infrastructure matters:

Things like smart streetlights and intelligent cities don’t happen by themselves. “There has to be an underpinning of infrastructure to support it all,” Kathleen Grillo, a Verizon senior vice president, explained. “There are so many people ready and willing to do this, but without the mayor's shoulder in, pushing hard through the bureaucracy and the politics . . . this critical component cannot happen in the way it needs to . . .”

Interested? Stay tuned to US Ignite:

US Ignite will be working with the National Science Foundation to provide $100 million over 7 years for cities of any size to become testbeds of next generation broadband technology. They are looking to bring two cities on board initially, then two more down the road, in an effort to give them the infrastructure necessary to deploy the broadband backbone necessary to build an Internet of Things (IoT) that will support new and innovate civic services. Check out www.advancedwireless.org over the next few months to learn more.

‘Data is the new oil.’

Howard Wright of Intel talked about the need to consider the implications of utilizing identity and data in concert to build a seamless world. He noted the robust infrastructure it needed to get there.

“This requires small cell, eco-cell, micro cell, macro cell; this requires dark fiber . . . gigabytes of connectivity; gigabytes and petabytes of data. For us we’re a data company, data is the new oil . . . that’s the business that we’re in . . . ”

‘With all the talk of tech it comes down to people? Absolutely.’

Joe Kochan, the chief operating officer of US Ignite, spoke about the importance of committed people:

“It going to be very cliche . . . the cities that are leading are the ones that can bring together multi-constituent, multi-stakeholder groups of people who are committed . . .”

“It was the right group of . . . committed people in the room committed to the right group of stakeholders.”

How to work with a city . . .

An excellent question from an audience member about how to build a “killer app” for a city boiled down to one thing for Mayor Reed.

“One of the lessons you need to learn in your space is anytime you're speaking to an elected official in your space you should open the meeting by telling them ‘what I’m going to tell you isn’t going to get you beat.’”

“I think that what people in my job are listening for is something will help people at scale with a partner that is the right partner that you believe in,” explained Mayor Reed. “The real issue that people in my space have is our staff don’t live in the world that you live . . . Margaret Thatcher has this famous saying that you might have to fight the battle more than twice to win it. I think that’s really true in cities.”

“I’ve got to have a partner that is going . . . to get right in there with me.”

Mitch Herckis is Senior Program Director for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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