‘Smart communities’ is the latest buzzword for cities using Big Data analytics to ensure local governments are creating living, breathing neighbourhoods, rather than sterile silos.

As cities employ various technologies to cut costs and improve efficiencies, calls for sustainability and openness have emphasised the need for smart communities – and here are three reasons why. 

1. Smart communities are collaborative 

Innovation doesn’t occur in isolation, which is why technologies such as location-based analytics encourage us to break down silos and build on the work of our neighbours.

Esri President Jack Dangermond has underscored the role of location-based analytics in creating a culture of openness and collaboration in organisations. Collaboration here doesn’t only mean keeping the lines of communication open between different stakeholders, it also means a democratisation of data and availability of tools that allow everyone in the entire organisation – and community – to harvest actionable insights from their data.

Sharing data and map services across departments makes a government more efficient. By going even further and making data open to the community, you drive citizen engagement, government transparency, and innovation.

Cities are also now seeing greater engagement with members of the public through their various crowdsourcing and open data initiatives.

2. Smart communities are fit for purpose

Today, cities account for more than 50 per cent of the world’s population and produce 80 per cent of global gross domestic product. Indeed, the paradigm has shifted from the conventional wisdom that economic growth is solely driven by central governments.

As cities race to become fit for purpose, location-based analytics has emerged as a mission-critical tool decision-makers need to plan a wide array of projects for the local communities.

The world’s leading decision-makers regularly draw on the approach to ensure they develop effective, targeted management programs that achieve their goals.

For example, 2016 US presidential candidate Governor Martin O’Malley famously used location-based analytics to deliver what he deems as “results-driven government”.

As the Governor of Maryland, one of the most densely populated states in the United States, O’Malley delivered a revolutionary Geographic Information System (GIS) platform which provided the state’s executive leadership and community with a clear map-based view of the effectiveness of all government-led initiatives.

O'Malley said the platform delivered an unbiased, accurate view of the state’s progress and failings – providing insight into the actions required to move the state forward.

"A map doesn't know if a neighbourhood is black or white, blue or green, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican,” said O’Malley. “A map knows where the challenges are, where the problems are. It tells us where we need to deploy our limited resources in order to attack those challenges.”

3. Smart communities are sustainable

Cities will always be changing. Whether it’s the population, the economic viability, or the state of our public infrastructure – decisions which made sense ten years ago can quickly be overtaken by trends and events happening in our environment several years later.

So how can we do a better job of anticipating changing circumstances? We maximise our access to all available information to improve the quality of our decision-making.

With the emergence of Big Data analytic tools, decision-makers are now given the capability and foresight to take smarter steps in maximising resource investments and crafting tailored programs and policies.

It is, after all, a lot cheaper to correctly predict future demand and build infrastructure in anticipation of that than it is to build in haste when demand is overwhelming.

Likewise, a smarter approach in asset management can spell huge savings for any organisation and add to the quality and lifespan of their infrastructures.

To learn more about smart communities, download the guide Three key steps to becoming a smart community.

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