More than 50% of the world’s population lives
in cities, and that number is expected to rise to 75% by 2050. It’s a sign of
great success for the world’s cities, but it’s also a call to arms: cities need
to modernize the way they work, and quickly. Otherwise, services and
infrastructure will be overwhelmed by the demands of population growth. Worse,
cities that don’t modernize might be on the outside looking in, watching businesses,
jobs, and citizens go elsewhere.
I see world-class cities around the world
rising to the challenge of mass urbanization in fascinating ways. They’re getting
rid of dead weight, allowing things like legacy operating systems, redundant
software, and outdated hardware to be phased out while sleek devices, apps, and
infrastructure take their place.
Here are three areas where cities are getting a
lot of bang for the buck when modernizing their operations. If you’re intent on
attracting and keeping businesses and citizens, these areas cannot be ignored.
Citizens and city employees are used to
accessing their information whenever and wherever. Mobility is a fact of modern
life, which means it needs to be part of your modernization plan. Not all city
governments have embraced mobility in the workplace, and I find that surprising.
City employees are like everyone else:
they love their devices and are already bringing them to work. For them
to respond quickly to citizen needs, it’s absolutely critical that they have
the devices they need to get their work done securely
from any location. Desktop machines may be great for your office-bound
accountants, but maintenance teams servicing broken-down buses may need to see
parts inventories on the spot. What’s the best device for them?
Everywhere I go—Starbucks, the airport, my office,
even when I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for one of my kids’ sporting events to
start—I find citizens using devices and apps to be more productive. City workers want to do
the same, and every little bit helps. I thought about this when I saw the Inspector
App by Microsoft
partner Accela. The app enables city inspectors to use their phones to view repair
and maintenance schedules, contact customers, check off tasks, email reports,
and more, all from the field. They don’t have to drop what they’re doing and go
back to the office to complete their work. It’s such a simple thing, but the
impacts can be profound. City staff gets more work done in an eight-hour day, which
is critical when your workforce has been reduced. Your city’s cost per incident
also goes down, and problems in the field are resolved faster for citizens. Everyone
My colleague, John Weigelt, blogged
recently about the
art of sharing services and saving money in the public sector. The cloud is the
ultimate resource for this. Within a few years, virtually every city government
will have at least some services connected to the cloud. Most cities are
already there—for one very compelling reason. It saves them money, so more
budget can go toward delivering city services and creating better places to
It seems to always come down to that—the
economics of running a livable, sustainable city where businesses and people
want to locate. If you focus on modernizing operations in a few key areas, your
city can evolve as population and demographics change, and continue delivering
the services that make your city great. That’s an important quality for any
city today—but it’s absolutely crucial for cities in the more-populous future.
Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me
know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.