StateTech: Smart Cities Week 2018: Smart Cities Are in the Eye of the Beholder

StateTech: Smart Cities Week 2018: Smart Cities Are in the Eye of the Beholder

Former smart city leaders Miguel Gamiño Jr. and Michael Mattmiller offered current IT leaders advice on how to work with the private sector and drive innovation in cities.

There are as many ways to pursue smart city concepts as there are cities in the world, but ultimately, city IT leaders should not focus as much on the technology they deploy as the residents they help.

Former smart city leaders delivered that message on Oct. 4 during a keynote session of the Smart Cities Week 2018 conference in Washington, D.C. They said that cities should look to partner with private sector technology companies to spur innovation. They also offered practical advice for how to use tech to improve the lives of residents.

Miguel Gamiño Jr., now the executive vice president for global cities at Mastercard, served as CTO for New York City from 2016 to April 2018. Gamiño also was CIO of San Francisco and chief innovation and information officer for the city of El Paso, Texas.

Working for multiple cities forced Gamiño to learn that every city is different, and while they may face similar problems, they all have different priorities. They also each have different appetites for risks, he said.

“What that taught me very quickly was that becoming smart city wasn’t a destination, it was a journey,” he said. “What makes for a smart city is in the eye of the beholder, in the city itself.” 

For example, in El Paso, the city was focused on efficiency in government, minimizing taxpayer expenses and improving service delivery. In San Francisco, the city and IT organization were much larger and more focused on broadband deployment, according to Gamiño.

Michael Mattmiller, a director of government affairs at Microsoft who served as CTO of the city of Seattle from 2014 to 2018, noted that the city’s IT organization wasn’t focused simply on how to deploy hyperconverged infrastructure in its data centers. “We were trying to affect citizen services” and improve them, he said.

Partnerships Are Essential for Smart Cities

Mattmiller noted that during his tenure he had strong support from Seattle’s mayor at the time, Ed Murray, as well as Scott Kubly, the former head of Seattle’s Department of Transportation.

Cities also had strong support from the Obama administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mattmiller said, which drew mayor’s attention to next-generation technologies. Obama also pushed for the creation of the MetroLab Network, a network of more that pairs together universities and cities to solve urban problems.

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