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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: City Leaders Converge to Learn From Each Other

Changing our outlook for a changing world

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked the question ‘what is a smart city really?’ then I’d definitely have enough change to buy a round of drinks. When you hear about smarter, more connected communities, the definition has become varied and often self-serving. However, as someone who dedicates a significant amount of my personal and professional life to sustainable and equitable urban development, I believe in the true importance of the smart city concept. It’s imperative that each city and country define what it means to become smarter, each idea will be different, depending on unique goals and citizen needs.

The apparent common thread is and will continue to be the use of technology. Today, businesses are pivoting toward digital transformation on a massive scale. A trend that governments should take hold of as it’s pressed to find new ways to operate and modernize its services. Whether it is through collaboration initiatives, embracing cloud computing, or driving more informed decisions through data analytics, there are unprecedented opportunities ahead for the evolution of digital government. In the face of uncharted territory and guaranteed disruption in its wake, building deep and lasting best practice sharing alliances will be an essential platform. Through vast sharing and partnership, we can bring together the most brilliant minds of the public, private, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors to identify innovations that can be scaled, replicated and transferred to make a lasting global impact.

Join the world’s most thoughtful industry leaders

This week our citizen has the unique opportunity to join the ranks of global innovators and leaders at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and digital technology. Meeting of the Minds kicked off yesterday, and more than 400 executives from 25 countries hailing from public and private sector, philanthropy, and academia join our citizen in Richmond, California. The 3-day summit will focus on delivering smarter public services and building better city systems, enabled by forward-looking public policies, intelligent infrastructure, and digital technologies.

Our citizen has heard and will witness a wide range of topics. First on our digital citizen’s agenda is the discussion around urban transportation. There’s no doubt that global communities are rapidly seeing their growing need to develop and implement public transit options and solve the interface between people and mobility systems. Dubai’s initiatives are enticing more people toward using public transportation by offering all services 24/7 via handheld devices and by easing the traveler experience with uniform ticketing and easy payment options, no-stop tollgates, and smart parking meters. Although a one-size-fits-all fix is not the answer, looking at the modes that are successfully serving city dwellers can help your own path become clearer.

Up next, our citizen looks forward to a session on comprehensive and accessible healthcare, and its criticality in economic vitality of communities and nations. Despite increasing expenditures in health, our citizen knows that the US is falling in key indicators of health, underwhelming and under delivering in a variety of health outcomes. Pioneers in the health and wellness industry are focusing on how to improve health, particularly for those in underdeveloped and underserved parts of the world. Sichuan, China is a leading example of breaking new ground through innovative models of cross-industry collaboration. Through integration with upstream determinants of health such as education, economic development, and community organizing, Sichuan has significantly improved access to medical care.


We’re now on to discussing environmental sustainability, a core pillar of the smart city concept. In our increasingly digital world, the quality of air and water, the movement of people and objects, the changes in weather, traffic congestion, CO2 levels, the production and consumption of energy, can be measured, tracked, and interconnected in real time. It is through this connection that we’re seeing smarter and more deliberate solutions for environmental and resource sustainability. This does not mean reinventing the wheel, but innovatively combining what is available with the advantages that technology affords to create high quality living environments. For example, Water for People works closely with local governments and private organizations to create and deliver an open-source smart device application that helps to provide clean water and basic sanitation services to people in disadvantaged communities around the world.

And finally, on to the much-anticipated topic of education and preparing the next generation workforce. Prior to the session, our citizen begins pondering how we can properly prepare a workforce for an ever changing and ever more competitive environment. Academic institutions like San Jose State University are bridging the gap between traditional and innovative methods, using digital technologies to promote anytime, anywhere learning. The very best schools must position themselves as a vital contributor to digital community initiative. Along with it, there is a celebrated movement toward including broader professional readiness, as well as personalized social and emotional learning.

Vigorous smart cities and digital government conversations are underway all over the world. Of the most important themes that have emerged on the Meeting of the Minds agenda, financing challenges are considered among the more profound roadblocks. This year’s Meeting has a pervasive track focused on financing mechanisms and strategies that are working for early adopters. Best practice sharing and idea swapping show that there are clear steps that can be taken, such as getting assistance in leading projects, improving planning, and achieving a better understanding of the cost and benefits of a smart city. As leaders undertake the steps recommended and learned at this forum, they can move beyond the current barriers and start to capitalize on the benefits of a smart, digital community.

Gatherings such as Meeting of the Minds are enabling cities and countries to respond to increasingly complex challenges. It’s important that leaders and innovative thinkers continue to showcase best practices developed inside these living labs, allowing for the proliferation of ideas to help grow a smarter, more sustainable world.

You can watch the full Meeting program, streaming live: And make your voice heard at Meeting of the Minds via Twitter: #MOTM2015.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information on keeping digital communities safer and more secure. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter.

For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!

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Sustainable Cities & Technology: Insights & Final Thoughts from Meeting of the Minds 2012

I had the opportunity to attend Meeting of the Minds in San Francisco last week. It was an amazing event that brought together thought leaders from the world’s most innovative organizations to spotlight fresh ideas in urban connectivity and sustainability.

The emerging themes centered around innovation, leadership, and enabling connectivity. While there and after the first day of sessions, my team had the pleasure of catching up with Gordon Feller, director of the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) Public Sector Practice, Urban Innovations team and convenor and co-founder of Meeting of the Minds, to capture his insights. Check out the video:

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Smart Cities: Moving from Discussion to a Call for Action

I am in San Francisco this week to attend a City Protocol workshop along with the Meeting of the Minds 2012 conference (Twitter: @meetoftheminds), which brings together thought leaders from the world’s most innovative organizations to spotlight fresh ideas in urban connectivity and sustainability.

All week, I’ve been surrounded by urbanists and city experts talking about ways to make cities better. At many city events worldwide, I see a lot of discussion that seems to center on “what” can be done to improve our cities. This week, however, I’ve heard people asking the presenters “how” the smart innovation actually happened. That is, they wanted to know who did what, and how it was developed, operated, and financed.

This clearly demonstrates that there is need for more replicable and usable information describing “how” Smart Cities are actually made to be smarter. To fill this need, one must understand how cities operate and how Smart City “indicators” are actually delivered. Read More »

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Smart City Frameworks: A Systematic Process for Enabling Smart+Connected Communities

Interest in Smart Cities has triggered plenty of theoretical and technology-led discussions, but not enough progress has been made in implementing related initiatives. In addition, there are a number of factors hindering adoption of Smart City solutions: scaling of newer technologies is unproven; technology challenges the existing status quo in how cities are run; and technology is not well-understood across city sectors.

However, the main barrier to adopting such solutions is the complexity of how cities are operated, financed, regulated, and planned. For instance, city operations are multidimensional and comprised of multiple stakeholders whose dependencies and interdependencies affect and ultimately determine the built environment. Smart Cities, however, present an opportunity to integrate physical city infrastructures—from utilities, transportation, and real estate to city services. Read More »

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Outlining Blueprints for the ‘Digital City’ of the Future

What does the future hold for our cities?

Previous centuries saw industrial infrastructure (such as rail, highways, and telephone lines) paving the way for new cities – and for a host of new connections. Now, change is being driven by a global “network of networks” that is making it possible for everything to become connected to everything else. In 2001, about 300 million devices—computers, cell phones, PDAs—were connected. By 2010, this web of invisible connections had expanded to include everything from cars and lights to buildings and security cameras. Read More »

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