Digital transformation

What are the five key factors that define smart communities?

Sep 04, 2017

With the push for local governments and civic leaders to enable smart cities and communities, there are five key factors that can fast-track the path to smarter, connected cities.

There’s a lot of talk about Smart Cities at the moment and a bewildering number of definitions of what constitutes a smart city or community.

Most of these discussions focus on technology or innovation and words like digital, connected, data, real-time and sensors abound but the question remains: “how do I know if my community is ‘smart’?”.

No one really wants to live in a place that isn’t smart. The good news is that a community can implement a lot of smart initiatives without having to do things like installing the latest sensor technology on parking meters.

At Esri Australia we believe that a smart community is characterised by five traits that distinguish it from others.

Each of these traits benefits from the real-time intelligence gathering that the Internet of Things and citizens as sensors can bring – but it is also about working smarter and applying innovation to existing processes.

1. Forward-thinking leadership and strategy
Modern ‘smart’ leaders rely on facts, not gut feelings. This may sound like a foregone conclusion but data is what fuels the smart community and its adoption begins from the top of the organisation. Smart leaders progress ideas, encourage innovation ecosystems and remove obstacles. The best leaders will motivate their entire organisation and inspire a smart community to become engaged.

2. Data-driven decision making
Information provides perspectives to improve outcomes. The pressure on community leaders to invest wisely and effectively respond to situations has never been greater. To avoid waste and pass public scrutiny, governments need data-driven decisions that are justified by facts from multiple perspectives. Transparency in sharing the data and the insights provided from the data go a long way to establishing smart credentials.

3. Real-time awareness
Live data informs immediate response. Smart decision making begins with current, accurate and relevant information. Real-time data feeds are no longer a luxury or an optional extra. To make a meaningful difference, organisations must remain continually aware of the pulse of the community, monitoring the vital signs in real time to respond to critical incidents or even avert potential disasters before they strike.

4. Collaboration across departments
Pooled intelligence enables successful operations. Smart communities unite the efforts of government and community groups through free-flowing information across departments and organisations. When users share and pull communal data together, efforts are better aligned, resources are allocated more wisely and time is saved.

5. Civic engagement
Engaging and relevant open data is essential to transparency. Beyond just publicly sharing information, governments must actively explore smart new ways to interact with the community and provide them with information in context. When data-driven rationales and logical thought processes are made clear, the community is generally more supportive and has greater faith in the decision-making process.

To take your digital transformation planning one step further, download the Building safe, smart communities e-book: a best-practice framework for establishing smart, safe and connected communities.