Viewpoints

Viewpoint: Top predictions for government in 2013

By Ruthbea Yesner Clarke

As local governments look for new ways to maintain or improve service levels in a time of constrained finances resources, the Smart City movement is emerging and growing in the U.S. as a force of innovation and investment.

Broadly speaking, a Smart City is town, city, or county that uses IT and devices to improve the quality of life of its citizens and foster sustainable economic development. Smart Cities more efficiently utilize their city infrastructure, human resources, and massive amounts of data to provide better citizen services; from less road congestion and on-schedule public transportation to faster and more responsive emergency and public safety services. These cities also work to change government worker, business, and citizen behavior to meet environmental and sustainability goals.

To assist government organizations, IDC Government Insights created the top 10 prioritized business drivers and technology trends that we believe will shape the Smart City landscape in 2013. Out of the 10 predictions, several touch on new types of relationships that need to be further developed to make Smart Cities a reality:

1. We predict that at least 70 percent of Smart City programs that will succeed in the next three years will use acity governance model that mixes the political clout of visionary mayors and city leaders, the practical experience of city managers, and the R&D and innovations of the private sector. In this model, city officials, such as the mayor or the CIO, set the vision, goals and outcomes for the city and coordinate an ecosystem of non-profit, academia and the private sector organizations that develop and implement initiatives outside of the confines of government bureaucracy.

2. We predict an increase in new types of partnerships as cities struggle to find sustainable business models and long-term funding for Smart City projects. We expect to see the private sector put some "skin in the game" with performance-based or gain-sharing partnerships and focusing their R&D based on city need. Cities will need also to rework their procurement process to allow for more experimentation and to take on some risk. This will result in more co-development of products with private vendors and academia and cities creating their own products to sell to other cities.

3. We predict that local government will connect to citizens via mobile devices and social media, accelerating a new type of citizen/government relationship. Many citizens now expect to dictate when and how they will interact with government, and are increasing their use and sophistication of mobile technologies. In fact, by 2015, PCs will no longer be the preferred method for U.S. citizens to access to Internet; it will be by mobile device. And, according to our research, at least 40 percent of all new apps developed in US local government will be for the mobile form factor.

4. We predict that local governments with strategic open data initiatives will have 50 percent more mobile applications developed for their city by citizens and the private sector. Given the pace of the mobile application life cycle — platforms can be upgraded every six months and over 45 percent of mobile app budget goes toward maintenance — local governments need to think carefully about their role in app development and decide on their sourcing strategy for skills and capabilities. This crowdsourcing of ideas and talent from the community rests on data sets and APIs that are made available to citizens. Citizens must also be educated on the open data and APIs and motivated to use the data to solve city challenges via hackathons, challenges and contests where prizes are awarded. In this way, an open data strategy serves to relieve some of the burden of app development and maintenance from local government along with promoting a vibrant digital sector.

These four predictions are just a few of the trends that we believe will shape the local government IT landscape in the context of a potentially economically and socially challenging 2013. The goal is to draw your attention to the most important events we expect in 2013 — events that exemplify strategic shifts that are reshaping the ways cities operate for the next three to five years and that require the city leaders to make smart, and sometimes very difficult, decisions.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

Ruthbea Yesner Clarke is the research director of IDC's global Smart Cities Strategies program and can be reached at rclarke@idc.com.

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