Currently, there is no fully developed and executed smart city anywhere. There are no clear standards, financing strategies, or even definitions. In this vacuum, many municipal leaders are feeling smart city fatigue as they try and make sense of the barrage of pitches from vendors and private consultants now populating this field.
Despite the confusion, a number of cities are making significant progress, as well they should. If harnessed effectively, new technology tools can vastly reduce crime, boost job creation, and improve public transit, among other potential problems these tools have the potential to solve. But true progress demands mayors understand these issues on their terms and how they apply to their city. They need clarity of vision, concrete budget, and operations plans and an honest appraisal of the many potential partners.
The Mayors Leadership Institute on Smart Cities (ISC) will address these issues. It will establish a smart city model approach that, for the first time, is led by mayors themselves. At a more concrete level, the ISC will provide knowledge, practical skills, resources, and best practices in a peer-to-peer setting. The Institute will flip the current industry-led dynamic; it will position municipal leaders to define priorities and build a model that accelerates progress for American cities.
The Institute is a collaboration of the New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). It will be an expert-facilitated and peer-driven learning environment where mayors will leave with a clear path forward for a major initiative, a framework for approaching smart city opportunities citywide, and equally important, a set of guiding principles to improve their relationship with vendors and future tech partners.
USCM is uniquely situated to convene mayors as it is widely known as the organization that routinely brings city leaders together to identify and problem-solve the nation’s greatest challenges. And New York University is recognized as a leader in the smart cities field having established an entire academic program dedicated to urban analytics, hosting the country’s most widely used secure data facility and developing customized executive education for public officials around the country.