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Special Report: Smart City to Smart Nation

Jecoby Carter
Citizens increasingly demand a higher quality of life at a more sustainable cost. For governments, that means building the smart city and smart nation of the future.

The pandemic led to an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies. People and organizations all over the world have had to adjust to new ways of work and life. Lockdowns across countries accelerated the rise in the use of information systems and networks with massive changes in usage patterns and behavior.

These changes effected most organizations—business, societies and government. Now, more than ever, citizens expect easy access to government information and services digitally. The urgent questions are: How do governments modernize IT in a secure, scalable and functional way, while improving quality of life? How do they become smarter?

A Slow History of Tech Innovation

According to a recent Granicus survey of 115 government leaders, 61% believe their organization is not keeping pace with the private sector in its adoption and implementation of modern technologies. Additionally, 36% believe that government will never catch up with private sector in terms of technology.

Bureaucracy and budget are leading factors of why. But many governments are navigating these complicated environments by focusing on key areas, including:

  • Digital services.
  • Mobile-first technologies.
  • Targeted communications.
  • Process automation.

In an ideal world, digital transformation in government would be as simple as aligning technological solutions to demand. However, the modernization of government bears significant change and requires close evaluation of:

  • Using cloud securely.
  • Adapting more and better data.
  • Cultivating collaboration with IT.
  • Building advocacy to manage change.

It All Starts with a Smart City

After a decade of trial and error, municipal leaders are realizing that smart-city strategies start with people, not technology. “Smartness” is not just about installing digital interfaces in traditional infrastructure or streamlining city operations. It’s also about using technology and data purposefully to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.

Connected cities or “smart cities” mix technology and human capital to solve problems resulting from the growth of the urban population.

Three layers work together to make a smart city:

1. The Technology Base

This includes a critical mass of smartphones and sensors connected by high-speed communication networks.

2. Specific Applications

Translating raw data into alerts, insight and action requires the right tools. And this is where technology providers and app developers come in.

3. Usage by Cities, Companies & the Public

Many applications succeed only if widely adopted and ultimately change behavior. For example, government-deployed apps can encourage people to use transit during off-peak hours, use less energy and perform preventative self-care.

Today, cities are moving beyond the smart city pilot stage, using data and digital technologies to deliver results that are more relevant and meaningful to residents.

Case Study: Small Town. Smart City Dreams.

IoT has the potential to transform public sector operations at municipal, regional and national levels. These public entities can leverage the power of connected things to meet the needs of a population that is increasingly reliant on digital services and interactivity.

The applications are almost limitless:

  • Street lighting that responds to pedestrian traffic levels.
  • Smart garbage cans that prompt trash collection only when needed.
  • Parking space alert services.
  • Interactive information services pushed to tourists’ smartphones.
In this video, leaders from Tyler, Texas, share how they're using smart technologies to transform how the government serves its citizens.

We are more and more looking at connecting our citizens with their government through technology.

Benny Yazdanpanahi, Chief Information Officer, Tyler, Texas

Accelerating Government IT Security

Today, cloud technologies are considered as secure as than traditional software—if not more secure. Now, leaders are dedicating time to upscale IT talent and delving deeper into what security measures are pre-built into cloud technology. To get there, government leaders should be reframing the question of cloud security from “Is the cloud secure?” to “Am I using the cloud securely?”

The City of Venice, Fla., for example, has roughly 350 employees and a 6-person IT team that serves many departments in the city, including public safety. Previously, IT was haphazard. Different departments purchased tools and software, creating little to no cohesion. IT director Christophe St. Luce and team faced the challenge of consolidating all the needs of the departments and finding an endpoint security solution that would satisfy the needs of multiple stakeholders.

Case Study: City of Venice, Fla., to Secure its Digital Environment

The City of Venice IT department’s goal is to empower a transparent and agile digital government. Florida was a prominent target of ransomware attacks during the 2020 pandemic. And the city’s IT department has continued to strengthen their security stack to stay on top of events in their digital environment.

Fortunately for a small IT team with multiple duties and responsibilities, VMware Carbon Black Cloud helps them customize the platform to their specific workflows, giving the team peace of mind.

Dive deeper into the City of Venice's story.

I’m very pleased at how minimally invasive (Carbon Black Cloud) is, yet intuitive, and how quickly it can stop potential threats.

Christophe St. Luce, IT Director, City of Venice

Translating the Data

Data impacts everything from housing and transportation to the citizen experience. The data provides context and feedback in real time. This, in turn, helps government become more efficient and more responsive to citizens’ wants and needs. At the same time, government leaders acknowledge that clear rules are required for gathering, handling, and using the growing amount of data available.

But the final goal is simple: Improve the quality of life for everyone in the city.

Case Study: PCMC’s Smart City Transformation Journey

Pimpri Chinchwad has come a long way from its roots as a small village cluster. Today, it’s becoming a model smart city and leading business hub in the Pune region of India. A significant part of the city’s growth can be attributed to PCMC, in making sure that Pimpri Chinchwad progresses to be a vibrant, attractive, and livable destination.

With the responsibility to transform India’s Pimpri Chinchwad into a smart city, there was a critical need for Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, also known as PCMC, to first modernize and update its own data center. The IT team had to ensure the tech stack was adaptable, agile, scalable, and resilient enough to support a large-scale transformation project.

PCMC had to resolve its IT constraints on data center management, micro-segmentation, and zero-trust environment to ensure seamless business continuity.

Through the evaluation process, VMware emerged as a trusted tech partner for PCMC in partnership with Tech Mahindra. VMware implemented an SDDC architecture that encompassed best-in-class virtualized compute, storage, and networking with comprehensive cloud management. This approach helped PCMC use a fully virtualized infrastructure that was inexpensive and simple to configure.

Smart Nations on the Horizon

As cities begin to adapt to new ways of living, the inevitable questions are: How do governments achieve digital transformation at scale? How do smart cities ultimately lead to smart nations?

First, we must ask: What is a smart nation? According to GovTech Singapore, smart nations mean people and businesses are:

  • Empowered through increased access to data.
  • More involved through the contribution of innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Benefited by a preemptive government that utilizes technology to better serve citizens’ needs.

Building a smart nation is a whole-of-nation effort comprising of three pillars:

  1. Digital Government
  2. Digital Economy
  3. Digital Society

Case Study: Pursuing Singapore’s Tech Imperative

When it comes to digital government, Singapore is fortunate to be building on strong previous efforts. Today, most transactions between citizens and the government can be done online, and integrated apps reduce the time taken to fulfill inter-agency requests.

According to IT News Asia, nearly half of Singaporeans surveyed (49%) agreed that the Government now delivers better digital experiences. Additionally, 56% of respondents shared that the government has given them the assurance that their personal information is secure.

Soon after formation, Singapore launched five Strategic National Projects:

1. Digital Identity

The Singpass is every Singapore resident's trusted digital identity, as well as a platform that bridges access to over 340 government agencies and private sector services.

2. e-Payments

Singapore’s banking industry launched FAST (Fast and Secure Transfers) is a payment system that enables direct real-time transfers between consumers and businesses across different banks.

3. Moments of Life

The Moments of Life (MOL) app places citizens at the heart of government digital services. It delivers integrated services and information to citizens at key milestones in their lives.

4. Sensor Platform

Through a shared network of sensors, the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) enables agencies to better maximize deployments by collecting and analyzing data to make decisions on city planning in a cost-effective way and improve the delivery of citizen-centric public services.

5. Smart Urban Mobility

Using digital technologies to enhance comfort, convenience and reliability of their public transport systems, and support the vision of a car-lite Singapore.

Most of these are digital platforms upon which more use cases can be explored over time. Dive deeper.

From Smart City to Smart Nation

IT investments once locked cities and nations into expensive and extremely long-term plans. Now, using the right combination of modern technology and smart solutions, governments can respond more dynamically to changing demands.

Governments around the world still have a long way to go—even the most advanced. This snapshot from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) details deployment in 50 cities around the world. The report gauges each city’s progress using a checklist of smart applications. Mobility was a top priority for most cities. But those with the highest number of applications implemented overall—London, Los Angeles, New York, Seoul, Shenzhen and Singapore—branched out into multiple domains, like security, utilities and healthcare.

Some cities start their transformations with inherent advantages, such as existing high-tech industries. But even less-progressive countries can set themselves apart with vision, good management, a willingness to break with conventional ways of doing things, and a relentless commitment to meeting the needs of its residents.