When I was in Brussels earlier this month for the central and eastern European launch of Microsoft CityNext, I had a chance to talk with mayors and city managers from across Europe. A recurring question for all of them was how to get creative with scarce resources so they can continue to meet the needs of their cities and the expectations of their citizens. At Microsoft, we call that doing “new with less.” The leaders I talked to were adamant that it’s not enough to do more with less or even less with less. For their cities to thrive, they know that new innovations must inform every decision. I agreed and held up Frankfurt am Main, Germany, as a case in point. I think we can all learn a lot from what this city’s forward-thinking leaders are doing.
Innovating new services
For starters, Frankfurt’s government created an e-government master plan that outlines a host of new online services to be launched in the coming years. Citizens will soon be able to interact more easily with their government through Web apps, increasing citizen participation in how local government runs. And they’ll stay more informed about local matters through more open, transparent government data.
Frankfurt also enabled city employees to interact with “one city.” It’s a big change from the past, when employees had to dig through a dozen or more data systems to find answers to citizen questions. Since the data came from different sources and was in different formats, making sense of it was a real challenge, and even easy questions took a lot of time to resolve. Now employees interact with just two data centers that aggregate all services and information citywide. It makes their jobs a lot easier—and the service they provide worlds better.
Innovating with budgets
While cities everywhere are being challenged to deliver new services, they’re trying to do it with less. This can’t be done without employing innovation that modernizes systems and operations. In Frankfurt—which has the goal of being the most modern city in Germany and possibly Europe—city leaders have taken three critical steps so far. They have:
1. Built a new data center.
2. Consolidated the highly decentralized IT infrastructure.
3. Upgraded to the latest Microsoft data center software products.
These changes allowed city officials to streamline processes, eliminate redundancies, and benefit from economies of scale. They expect to reduce citywide software costs by an astounding 40 to 50 percent as a result.
Innovating with technology
For more examples of cities doing new with less, you should check out the McKinsey & Company report titled "How to Make a Great City." The researchers identified technological innovation as a primary means of doing more with less. For their report, which offers a three-part plan for making a great city, they interviewed dozens of mayors and other city leaders around the world to understand what governments are doing to improve services and reduce waste. These insights are coming straight from your peers in cities across the globe. I think it’s worth a read.
What kind of innovations are you seeing in your city? Share your stories with me and I’ll continue to spread the word, either here in the On Government blog, in the halls of Microsoft, or in the conferences and events I attend. We’re all driving toward the same future. By sharing ideas, we can make sure our cities are ready for it.
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