Signal for Week 2 of Intelligent cities

Forward the video to 1:17:57 or click here:

This video from 2013 features Jorge Soto. He is notorious for disrupting an RFP issued by the Mexican government to develop a mobile app. The government budgeted $10 million dollars for its development while Jorge socialized the “need” and received 5 open-source solutions within weeks.

Lawmakers soon insisted they’d never known about the original app, which had been quietly approved by a legislative administrative board; and a congressional spokesman rushed to clarify that the project had been suspended. Invited to pitch their alternatives to Congress, a half-dozen young coders took the podium in a sloping auditorium at the legislature. The only cost for their work: a 11,500-peso (then US $930) prize for the winner.
“We didn’t just ‘angry tweet,’ we actually did something,”. “Citizens need to understand democracy beyond voting every few years, and government needs to understand that we’re willing to participate.”

At the time, Jorge was just another civic hacker with good intentions. His stunt got him appointed by the President as Deputy General Director of Civic Innovation for Mexico.

I also chose an article in the Times from late last year.

“When officials at the city’s Education Department learned about the residency formula, they realized that something similar might tame the chaotic school-choice system in New York.”

This is a signal to me because someone at the Department of Education had the foresight to reach out to academia to use “science” to solve a real urban problem.

For me, these events demonstrate how local government can act as “master integrator” of smart city solutions. The broader questions are: How can we repeat these events ? Do we need to always rely on open minded, progressive individuals with some political power to make this happen or can we actually institutionalize these signals of success where Government socializes and democratizese its problems.

But it soon became clear that looking smart, even more than being smart, was the real force driving mayors into the arms of engineers. “Part of the thinking that you find in elected officials and economic development teams is they want their city to seem modern, to seem Internet-friendly,”

As the Smart cities book shows repeatedly, the poster children of the conventional notion of smart cities are pre-occupied with “looking smart” rather than actually “being smart”. I argue that its simply an unfamiliarity with what is possible, a leadership that is not digitally native.

Millenials, now touted as hip amongst other things are eventually going to become real constituents with “digital needs” that they will feel they are entitled to. Combine that with the overwhelming clerical nature of local government that often renders it in technological debt & apathetic, I foresee a perfect storm where digitally awkward administrations will lose out quickly.

Here is my “mirror world” view of the City as Master Integrator to delivery smart city solutions. Over the next few weeks, I hope to refine this framework with an intent to be a “Common Operational Picture” for Long term, smart city planning.

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