SMART technologies such as mobile applications, sensors or smart cards offer huge opportunities to improve local administration and build connected, inclusive and more efficient territories. Many local governments around the world are already experimenting with SMART solutions and have demonstrated amazing results in energy savings, better use of public budgets or opening new channels to communicate with their citizens.
However, choosing the right products and mechanisms can be a challenge for local governments, as technology changes too quickly and the internal process of contracting, implementing and show-casing added value are often too slow for city managers. Too often technology becomes obsolete even before the project starts delivering results.
The challenges of city life are becoming more complex as cities are the places where most people live and work. Local governments need to offer more and more services to an increasing population.
In this context, the smartphone is demonstrating what an opportunity it is to provide active citizenship for many people that were previously excluded of access to information or than simply, did not exist for their institutions. Today, citizens can obtain vital information during and immediately after natural catastrophes, they can access banking services without having a formal residence address, they can pay their social insurance, be safe and become visible and able to participate in public life.
On the other end, the public sector is traversing crises of confidence in many of the countries of the world. Citizens demand increased transparency and effectiveness in public service delivery. Transparency, public accountability and participation are the way ahead to prevent corruption and mismanagement of public management. The smartphone can be central in creating new ways of communication able to provide citizens with the “eyes” to better control and contribute to the ways cities are managed.
Municipal finances are central to the capacity of local governments to offer accessible and quality services to their citizens. To provide services for all, local governments need the necessary financial resources and to increase their revenue base.
The first question to be addressed is of course, the one of local taxation and how SMART technologies can help to create trust in the capacities of the local government to provide public services with taxpayers money. Citizens need to believe that the municipality will use the revenue in a transparent way and that collected taxes will have a direct and visible impact in their own neighborhood.
For this process to happen, things need to move very quickly, the benefits of the transformation from informality to formality needs to be perceived by the citizen almost immediately, and this is where the systematic use of SMART of technologies can have a transformative effect, providing transparency and battering corruption, as operations are registered, referenced and opened to the public.
SMART technologies can improve governance and increase efficiency in services management through a better use of resources and stronger citizen dialogue and participation. Examples of key SMART sectors include.
Modernizing public administration and providing public services online, requesting certificates and reports, making payments and debits, online registrations and paying taxes and fees.
Increasing transparency and accountability by facilitating monitoring by citizens.
Improving citizen participation in the decision-making process and implementation of public policies (e-democracy).
Improving urban transport networks by facilitating information about available parking lots, buses timing, traffic lights…
Improving energy efficiency with more efficient ways to light and heat buildings, smart grids, electronic vehicles, street lighting, etc.
Improving water supply: monitoring consumption, managing floods, improving leakages, etc. …
Improving waste disposal and collection.
Creating safer public spaces: smart cameras, operations center, etc.