A New Year's resolution: smarter cities in 2013

23 December 2012 | Joel Cherkis, General Manager, Worldwide Government

As 2012 comes to a close and we look toward 2013, many of us will make New Year's resolutions to invite change and improvement into our lives. In the spirit of the New Year, today I'd like to reflect upon ways that governments are working to improve the communities in which we live.

As the most visible communities, cities are home to more than half of the world's population, and are projected to grow faster than ever. Keeping pace with this growth is requiring cities to become more efficient, or "smart" in the way they serve constituents. As government organizations aim to serve their city-dwellers in the most cost-effective and engaging ways, more than ever technology is playing a large role in advancing smart cities. Here's a look at technology trends that are shaping smarter cities of the future.

Moving toward a single, seamless picture of the constituent

In my opinion, the adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) software is one of the most exciting trends happening in cities around the world, as governments work to engage constituents more effectively and meaningfully. By tailoring services to the individual and generating unique IDs for each "customer," CRM is helping cities obtain a more complete picture of their citizens. This is having a transformative effect, helping cities eliminate redundant applications and information requests to determine eligibility for government services.

Combined with federation, which allows information to securely flow between agencies and departments, more than ever cities are able to communicate much more openly and provide more "one-stop-shop" experiences for constituents. In an age of "consumerization," it's exciting to see cities embracing this new paradigm, providing seamless, customer-oriented services to citizens. A great example of this is the City of Bellevue, Washington. More details on its "Service First" initiative are available in this case study. Queensland's Department of Child Safety in Australia is another example of an organization taking an integrated approach to citizen information.

A clearer outlook for cloud computing in government

Whereas public cloud services were not seen as feasible for government only a few short years ago, I believe that 2013 will be the year that organizations finally step off the sidelines and make their move to the cloud. In fact, Gartner recently predicted that the public cloud services market will expand by more than 19 percent in 2012, to reach a total of $109 billion worldwide.

There are two key trends that are driving government's shift toward cloud computing: the decreasing cost of cloud technology and the increasing level of security through certifications. As more and more government organizations consolidate their infrastructures and realize the benefits of moving workloads like email to the cloud, others are beginning to notice. Security certifications like FISMA and ISO 27001 provide greater assurances to customers that their data will be protected and are also helping to speed the adoption process.

Reaching a connected, mobile workforce and constituency

From technology standpoint, today's government employees and citizens are more mobile than ever before, both personally and professionally. The proliferation of affordable devices ranging from smartphones to tablets means that individuals expect to have always-on access to information, regardless of their location or the time. As the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend continues to take off, smart cities are working to adapt to this change. That includes engaging citizens with mobile apps, which are increasingly sought-after tools used by citizens to access government services and information. For example, Poste Italiane was able to increase the mobility of its workforce after switching to Windows 8 by enabling employees to work from any device and access mobile productivity solutions delivered via apps. More information is available on Poste Italiane's move in this Windows blog post.

As cities around the world strive to do more with less in a time of shrinking budgets and growing citizen demands, becoming smarter about balancing these issues is a resolution that governments are clearly taking to heart. And, while technology will play a crucial role for 2013 and beyond, it's only one part of a larger equation. To truly deliver on this promise, it must be a multifaceted effort, including leadership from city officials, innovative policies, a commitment from government employees, and participation from citizens. Working in unison, these factors will pave a bright future for cities worldwide.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Joel Cherkis
General Manager, Worldwide Government

About the Author

Joel Cherkis | General Manager, Worldwide Government

Joel leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world. Read more