The Blog

15 Ways to bring Civic Innovation to your City – For Mayors, City Managers and Candidates

In my previous blog post I wrote about a desire to see our Governments transform to be part of the  21st century.  I saw a recent reference to how governments across Canada have lost their global leadership, how government in Canada at all levels is providing analog services to a digital society.  I couldn’t agree more.  I have been thinking lately about some practical ways that Mayors and City Managers could innovate in their communities.  I realize that there are a number of municipal elections happening this fall across Canada, a time when leadership changes and new ideas emerge.  So this blog is also for Mayoral candidates who have a sense that technology and innovation have a role to play in their city and in their administration.

I thought I would identify 15 initiatives that cities could pursue as part of their Civic Innovation Strategy.   For the last 50 years technology in local government in Canada has been viewed as an expense, as a necessary evil, not always understood by elected officials and senior administrators.  Information and Technology is part of every aspect of a city, it is critical in delivering services.  It is time to not just think of this as an expense but as an investment, as a way to innovate, reduce costs, enhance citizen service delivery and transform government operations.

Here are my top 15 ways to bring Civic Innovation to your city:

1. Build 21st Century Digital Infrastructure like the Chattanooga Gig City Project.

2. Build WiFi networks like the City of Edmonton on your own and in partnership with others.

3. Provide technology and internet to children and youth in need like the City of Toronto.

4. Connect to a national Education and Research network like Cybera in Alberta and CANARIE.

5. Create a Mayors Task-force on Innovation and Technology leveraging your city’s resources.

6. Run a hackathon or two or three like the City of Glasgow or maybe host a hacking health event like the City of Vancouver.

7. Launch a Startup incubator like Startup Edmonton or take it to the next level and create a civic lab like the City of Barcelona.

8. Develop an Open Government Strategy, I like to the Open City Strategy from Edmonton.

9. If Open Government is too much then just start with Open Data, Edmonton has one of the best.

10. Build a Citizen Dashboard to showcase your cities services and commitment to the public.

11. Put your Crime data online like the Edmonton Police Service.

12. Consider a pilot project with sensor technology for parking like the City of Nice or for  waste management like the City of Barcelona.

13. Embrace Car2Go, Modo and UBER as ways to move people in your city.

14. Consider turning your IT department into the Innovation and Technology Department like they did at the City of Chicago.

15. Partner with other near by local governments to create a shared Innovation and Technology agency.

Now more than ever before cities need to find ways to innovate, to transform and to create a foundation that is sustainable.  Now is the time for both courage and innovations in government.  What is your city doing to move into the 21st Century?