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Have we over-complicated the ‘smart’ in smart government?


September 8, 2016

Yes we have.

By “we”, I mean technology vendors. And, analysts. It’s as if there’s an incentive for vendors to make vendors the authority in smart government.

Look at the notion of the smart city. Technology providers design info-graphics and architecture diagrams with overwhelming numbers of circles and arrows. Here’s a synopsis, or simplification, below. It’s difficult to read.

Smart ComplexityMost smart city diagrams include sensors for smart grids, smart transportation, pollution monitoring, etc. Many go so far as to indicate the type of sensor such as Internet of Things, RFID or other operational equipment.


Most smart city diagrams include supporting or enabling technologies.


SMACT (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud and the Internet of Things) technologies are fundamental to smart cities. So is cyber-security, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Government Resource Planning (GRP). The “sharing economy” of apartment, home, utilities and transportation are also fundamental to the smart city. The “uberization” of everything promises higher productivity at lower environmental costs.

Most observers agree governments can’t achieve “smart” without open government, citizen participation and open data.


This all looks complicated. The integration of technology bits and pieces is complicated, but not complex. In other words, the implementation of smart city technology requires technology and engineering expertise.


The process of determining relevant smart government technologies to address national development objectives, finding funding, monitoring outcomes, PFM reform and convincing stakeholders – of course, politics and organizational change management – that’s complex.


So, the next time you see a busy smart government or smart city diagram with images, arrows, circles and boxes, remember that planning, funding and monitoring is much more complex. Particularly in government because of politics.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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