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Perspective: Governance Model for Innovation in Cities

Prof. Brian Donnelan participated in a panel on infrastructure development for cities. He introduced the idea of governance as an important concept in the development of infrastructure plans, especially in regard to technology and innovation.  He leverages an existing framework, developed for the IT industry, to ensure that initiatives meet all stakeholder’s needs and provide the greater impact that is desired for society.

Generally, IT Governance has 5 dimensions associated with it:

  1. Strategic Alignment
  2. Value Delivery
  3. Risk Management
  4. Resource Management
  5. Performance Measurement

The IT Governance principles were developed for a different context. But Donnelan’s contention is that many impediments to progress in Smart Cities can be traced to an immaturity in the approach of City managers and IT vendors in these five areas. Specific examples include:

  • Strategic Alignment: Poor levels of citizen engagement and uneven involvement/buy-in from key urban stakeholders.
  • Value Delivery: Little or no understanding of sustainable business models once pilot studies and prototyping have been completed. Also, what constitutes “public value” is not well understood.
  • Risk Management: The failure of Smart City projects can be devastating at a societal level. We need more sophisticated and comprehensive risk analysis for these projects (“a priori” as well as “ex ante”).
  • Resource Management: Collaborative projects involving cities and IT vendors to solve Smart City challenges (co-creation or co-innovation) are not well managed. There is no mature engagement model between cities and vendors that includes public procurement policies, IP management, collective responsibility, end exploitation strategies.
  • Performance Measurement: Some patchy static performance metrics exist at the project level (e.g., environmental monitoring systems, traffic congestion) and they have been deployed in some urban “dashboards.” But there is clearly a need for multi-level integrated real-time performance management systems that combine social, physical, and environmental metrics in ways that support scenario planning and simulation.

Initial attempts at Smart City projects have suffered from several organizational and managerial problems, such as:

  • Adoption of immature IT technologies by cities as they try to position themselves to be more competitive in the race for inward investment and talent attraction/retention.
  • Technology vendors who were eager to establish proof-of-concept trials for their technology, to establish an early advantage in an IoT market. But they had not formed the partnerships and examined the larger problem of implementation and scaling within cities.

As cities move into the 2nd generation of Smart City projects, a mature approach is being taken by cities and IT firms. They realize that to get to the next level they need a more considered and thoughtful strategy (that includes governance practices). There is a realization that a series of unconnected technology testbeds does not integrate into a Smart City.

The IT Governance model is a starting point for important discussions on how to integrate the needs of all stakeholders to ensure that small proof-of-concept projects can scale within cities to have the desired impact.