September 1, 2016Doug Hadden
Smart cities have become the focus of the smart government discussion. A United Nations report from 2014 concluded that “54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050.” Megacities are on the rise.
McKinsey found the top 600 urban centres generate about 60% of global GDP, while the Greenhouse Gas Protocol estimates that cities are “responsible for more than 70% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.” It’s no wonder that cities have become the symbol for technology to optimize opportunities and mitigate challenges to achieve sustainable development. And, smart government.
Smart is all about integrated predictives technologies (Internet of Things, big data, visualization), citizen engagement (open data, open government, smart services), and agility. It’s about improving healthcare, education, transportation, and resources. This extends beyond the scope of cities. We can’t download the “wicked problem” of sustainable development to cities.
Smart National Governments
Statistics can be somewhat misleading. Value-add economic activities in cities inflate GDP calculations. Food and materials are still required. The definitions of urban and rural can differ among observers and within countries.
Smart needs to be considered at the national government level. National governments are typically responsible for disaster response, national infrastructure, country education and healthcare. Diseases, like trucks, do not stop at the outskirts of towns. National governments also store large amounts of information that can help to improve education and health outcomes – that can provide businesses and citizens with the resources for growth and reduced use of natural resources.
National governments likely have more impact in the enablement of smart education and smart health than cities.
National governments also operate State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) for utilities, transportation and construction. SOEs are integral to achieving many smart government outcomes.
Role of National Governments in Smart Cities
National governments have a significant role as smart city enablement. Smart cities often require policy and regulatory changes at the national level. For example, reform to business regulations may be required to assist in creating more forum businesses or to support “sharing economy” business models. National governments have access to funding. National identity systems can help cities control resource consumption while reducing taxation avoidance.
There are important IT roles that national governments play, particularly in cloud computing and cybersecurity. National governments can build secure “private clouds” and can determine the parameters for government use of “public clouds.” Cloud computing is required to process and analyze vast amounts of data.
Of course, smart utility grids and smart transportation grids increases the dangers of cyberhacking and cyberespionage. National governments need to be on the cyber forefront to enable smart government technologies at every tier.
It will become increasingly clear that national governments will drive many future smart city initiatives. It will also become increasingly clear that national governments will benefit significantly from smart technologies.