Intelligent City Chapter for Atlas of Cities

ICMy chapter on Intelligent Cities will appear in the Atlas of Cities (Princeton University Press) edited by Paul L. Knox (Virginia Tech).

A city, like any organization, thrives or fails depending on its ability to process signals from its environment. Cities have long been subject to shocks because the information systems designed to signal impending events in their internal or external environments were inadequate. The management of infrastructures, processes, and events within a city has traditionally been inefficient or ineffective because of an inability to harness data toward real-time decision-making. This has led to significant wastage of scarce resources and squandering of opportunities. Furthermore, until recently most citizens have been passive recipients of plans and programs devised by their elected officials. As the population in cities has exploded, the leveraging of the collective intelligence of diverse citizens toward the betterment of the city has remained elusive as a result of poorly designed participatory platforms—for example, the town hall meetings that are often used to solicit input but impose significant barriers on the participation of citizens. Urban planners and designers have historically focused on innovating for citizens rather than with citizens, or, better, providing citizens with the resources and capabilities to innovate for themselves.

Today, following advances in communication and computational technologies, cities are harnessing data and information with a view to becoming more “intelligent.” The adoption of mobile technologies and the diffusion of Internet connectivity has made information accessible to most individuals, even the poorest of the poor. Cities are embedding a wide assortment of technologies within their physical and social spheres so as to enable real-time processing of data to further the goal of smarter decision-making. In addition, cities are liberating data that was previously withheld from the public. Open data programs exist in many major cities through which data on a wide variety of operations and governance mechanisms are being made available. Citizens, in turn, are playing a more active role in shaping the future of their environments. Citizens are not only creating mobile apps that promote smarter ways of traversing the city and conducting various functions, but are also building online participatory platforms so as to source problems and solutions from their fellow dwellers and better manage public goods.

My chapter contains seven spreads that cover key elements of intelligent cities:

  1. Liberating Data
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Sustainability
  4. Mobility
  5. Entrepreneurship
  6. Quality of Life
  7. Living Labs

The core city that I focused on is London and the secondary cities are Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Boston, and Amsterdam.

Open Innovation in the Public Sector – Challenge.Gov – Public Administration Review

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Ines Mergel and I have a paper accepted in Public Administration Review

Implementing Open Innovation in the Public Sector:
The Case of Challenge.Gov

As part of the Open Government Initiative (OGI), the Obama administration has called for new forms of collaboration with stakeholders to increase innovativeness of public service delivery. Federal managers can utilize Challenge.gov to crowdsource solutions from previously untapped problem solvers and leverage collective intelligence to tackle complex social and technical public management problems. We highlight the work conducted by the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration (GSA), the administrator of the Challenge.gov platform. Specifically, we feature the work of Tammi Marcoullier, Program Manager, Challenge.gov, and Karen Trebon Deputy Program Manager for Challenge.gov, and their role as change agents mediating collaborative practices between policy makers and public agencies in navigating the political and legal challenges within their local agencies. We provide insights into the implementation process of crowdsourcing solutions for public management problems as well as lessons learned designing open innovation processes in the public sector.

Plenary Address at the Western Intergovernmental Audit Forum

I will be delivering a plenary address at the 2013 Western Intergovernmental Audit Forum. The meeting will take place at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Arizona, Sept 12-13, 2013. My talk titled, Emerging Technologies and the Future of Governance, will explore how technological innovations are changing how we design, implement, and manage, our governance mechanisms and public institutions. header

Two Papers in the JASIST Virtual Issue on Knowledge Management

jasistIt has been a while since I wrote a paper on knowledge management systems, so it was a pleasant surprise hearing that the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology has chosen two of my papers for their virtual issue on knowledge management. The two papers are:

To read the editorial of the special issue, please click here. The special issue was edited by  Claire McInerney and Ziad Matni, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Designing and Planning for Smart(er) Cities – Practicing Planner

aicpsignatureYou can find my article on smart cities in the current issue of Practicing Planner.

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Abstract: Within the past 24 months the concept of smart (and intelligent) cities has been become popular in the media. For instance, Scientific American ran a special issue on smart cities (September 2011). Industry players such as IBM and Siemens have specific programs and practices dedicated to advancing the cause of building smart cities. Despite its intuitive appeal, we have limited knowledge within the design, planning, and policy fields about the dimensions of the concept of smart cities, and limited practical experience regarding the barriers and potential opportunities. The term smart city is still new and appears to mean different things within different fields. In some ways the term is both complex and vague. Some experts use the term smart city to highlight advances in sustainability and greening of the city, while others use the term to portray infusion of information via technologies to better the lives of citizens. Even others consider the presence of high-level citizen engagement in the design and governance of the space as a key attribute of smarter cities. Therefore, no consensus exists within the academy on the characteristics of smart cities and how they fit within existing conceptual frameworks, such as sustainability and policy informatics. Although there is not yet consensus on a definition, I posit the following definition: A smart city is livable, resilient, sustainable, and designed through open and collaborative governance. The objective of this paper is to provide a preliminary conceptual framework for researchers, policymakers, and planners to apply in their design and development of smart cities. In light of the growing popular appeal of smart cities, I hope this essay will serve as a call to action for planners who must confront the day-to-day challenge of designing, developing, and retrofitting cities to make them smarter.

To access the article, please click here.

Policy Informatics in Communications of the AIS

I have a new paper accepted for publication in the Communications of the AIS. The paper outlines the case for IS researchers to pay attention to the budding field of policy informatics.

In this paper we introduce policy informatics as an emerging research space. Policy informatics is the study of how information systems are leveraged towards solving complex public policy problems. Leveraging information systems requires: (1) platforms for citizens to participate and engage in policy processes and with public agencies; (2) public agencies to utilize technologies to take advantage of information reservoirs for evidence-driven policy design; and (3) public agencies to be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. Presented in this paper is one illustrative application of policy informatics. We explore human centered participatory platforms for facilitating deliberations on policy issues. When individuals and groups seek to collaborate to resolve policy issues, competing interests and adversarial positions on issues as well as an unawareness of the others’ perspectives often result in poor outcomes. Empathy is the act of imagining, understanding, and actively responding to the conditions and perspectives of another related to a particular situation. Therefore, generating and disseminating a strong feeling of empathy among members in these policy networks is crucial for mitigating conflicts. However, empathy generation and transfer is a complex challenge that requires systematic research within the design of participatory platforms. A thoughtful application of information systems (IS) can help bring diverse stakeholders together and promote cooperation. Human centered IS platforms facilitate richer communication channels and timely feedback to generate a sense of shared community to pursue shared goals. Interactive computer simulations is a form human centered participatory platform, which enables construction of synthetic environments for policy deliberation, and provides participants with an opportunity to jointly explore the decision space to understand the claims of other participants as legitimate.

Reference: Krishnamurthy, R., Desouza, K.C., Johnston, E.W., and Bhagwatwar, A. “A Glimpse into Policy Informatics: The Case of Participatory Platforms that Generate Synthetic Empathy,” Communications of the AIS, Forthcoming.

What is a Smart City?

Within the past 18 months the concept of smart (and intelligent) cities has been become popular in the media. For instance, Scientific American ran a special issue on smart cities. Industry players (e.g. IBM, Siemens, etc) have specific programs and practices dedicated to advancing the cause of building smart cities. Government agencies are dedicating resources and making investments in designing smarter cities (for e.g., see - EU invests $450 million in smart cities). Despite its intuitive appeal, we have limited empirical knowledge within the design, planning, and policy fields about the dimensions of smart cities—its characteristics, the barriers, and the potential opportunities. One reason is the term smart city is still new and it appears to means different things within different fields. In some ways the term is complex and vague. Some experts use the term smart city to highlight advances in sustainability and greening of the city, while others use the term to portray infusion of information via technologies to better the lives of citizens that reside in these spaces. Even others, consider the presence of high-level of citizen engagement in the design and governance of the space as a key attribute of smarter cities.  Therefore, no consensus existing within the academy on the characteristics of smart cities and how they fit within existing conceptual frameworks, such as sustainability and policy informatics.

In a working paper, I propose the following definition: A smart city is livable, resilient, sustainable, and designed through open and collaborative governance.

  • A smart city is resilient in that it possesses the capacity, desire, and opportunity for sensing, responding to, recovering, and learning from natural and man-made disasters.
  • A smart city takes a sustainable approach to the management of its economic, social, and ecological resources to ensure that they have vitality going into the future.
  • A smart city infuses information for automated and human, individual and collective, decision-making on optimal allocation of resources, design of systems and processes, and citizen engagement.
  • A smart city enables intelligent decision-making through leveraging information via technology, platforms, processes, and policies across its environments, infrastructures, systems, resources, and citizens.
  • A smart city operates as a seamlessly integrated platform where information links the various infrastructures, systems, organizations, and citizens’ goals and values.
  • A smart cities engage citizens in planning and design of public spaces and govern use of public resources through open and collaborative governance platforms that generates, and leverages, collective intelligence. 

In some respects the description resembles a vision statement with supporting principles or goals that make the vision of a smart city come to life. First, the overarching goal of having a smart city is that it is livable, resilient, and sustainable. These goals increase the value of the city and contribute positively to the lives of the citizens that interact with, and reside within, the city. Second, we must recognize these goals as a function of infusing information into the fabric of the city. Technological devices enable citizens to leverage information as they conduct their daily activities, while they also enable planners and designers to have accurate situational awareness about the city. Information is infused into the planning and design apparatuses as public sector projects are conducted. For example, the use of computational platforms and simulation technologies can enable city planners and designers think through various alternatives, test assumptions, and visualize the impacts of various interventions on critical outcomes. Through harnessing information, the smart city is able to conduct public projects in a highly effective and efficient manner. Third, smart cities use a wide assortment of information pipelines and platforms to integrate the often disparate physical and human sub-systems, infrastructures, and processes. Through building viable connections, information flows between the various parts of the city seamlessly so as to enable for real-time intelligent decision-making. Fourth, smart cities leverage the collective intelligence of its citizens, residents and, even transients (e.g. people who commute to work in the city) using participatory platforms. The smart city has viable vehicles and platforms through which its citizens can contribute to its governance processes and the future design of the city.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the definition and the elements of a smart city.

Report now Available – Challenge.Gov: Landscape Analysis + Citizen and Agency Perspective

I have just completed the first draft of my report on the Challenge.gov platform. This paper has been a few months in the making and builds on my recent work in community intelligence platforms, citizen apps, and innovation in the public sector. To receive a copy of the report, please send me an email.

Challenge.Gov: Landscape Analysis and Implications from the Citizen and Agency Perspective

To solve complex social and policy challenges we need to broaden the conversations, involve more minds and talent, and collaborate effectively and efficiently. Traditionally, public agencies have felt the burden to tackle challenges by relying on their own internal intellectual capital or through structured contracting with external partners. Seldom could an individual citizen share his or her talent, expertise, and skills with a public agency directly. Today, public agencies are becoming more participatory, inclusive, and transparent in how they engage with citizens as well as with each other. Challenge.gov is the crowdsourcing platform for US federal agencies that seek to engage citizens, leverage collective intelligence, and tackle complex social and technical challenges. In this paper we report on an exploratory landscape analysis of the competitions run on Challege.gov. We interviewed citizens who took part in competitions on Challenge.gov as well as public managers and government executives to understand their motivations, experiences, lessons learned, and future plans. Drawing on these interviews, we arrive at a set of actionable guidelines presented through implications to improve the state of competitions hosted by Challenge.gov. 

Acknowledgments: This project was made possible through funding received from the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Tim Moon and Akshay Bhagwatwar served as research associates for the project. I am grateful to the assistance provided by Eric Park and Lauren Bulka during the project. I also thank all solution contributors to challenges and public managers who designed challenges that participated in our interviews. All errors and omissions are solely my responsibility. I acknowledge the thoughtful discussion and comments from participants at the NSF Workshop on Participatory Challenge Platforms with a Public Intent. The views represented in this paper are our own, and do not represent official positions of IBM, any of its affiliates, or the NSF.