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In this Leadership Perspectives series, we ask different industry leaders to share their thoughts on trending business tech topics. Waliur Rahman is Chief Information Officer and an Advisory Partner at Kyndryl. Rahman is a seasoned IT professional with an entrepreneurial spirit and a proven track record of modernizing and securing large public-sector IT organizations. He is passionate about enabling the technology behind smart cities and has received numerous industry awards for his work as a consultant on these initiatives. In this post, he's shared his perspectives on how cities can improve citizens' quality of life through technology.

What are some of the potential challenges or concerns associated with the implementation of technology in smart cities, and how can they be addressed?

The concerns surrounding smart cities can be broken into three primary categories: citizen concerns, political concerns, and budgetary concerns. In general, we try to address these concerns by focusing on the equity and accessibility of smart technology, and implementing strategic and transparent practices around data usage. Here's what that looks like in more detail:

Equity: Ensuring digital designs are not only applied to affluent and demographic-defined regions within a municipality, but are also benefiting low-income residents, older populations, people of color, and immigrants. We do this through:

  • Surveys: During the understanding and scoping phase of solution development, we leverage existing customer and municipality demographic data to distribute solutions equitably across regions.
  • Design: Based on the data, we design solutions that ensure equity and create workshops to discuss solution viability.

Accessibility: Accounting for technologies that support and are accessible to the economically challenged, physically challenged, demographically challenged, and geographically (mass transit) challenged. The process for promoting accessibility is similar to the process we use to ensure equity. Once again, we'll leverage periods of survey and design to achieve our objectives.

  • Surveys: We consider existing data on the municipality and its residents, and develop strategies for promoting city-wide access to technology.
  • Design: We design data-based solutions to promote broad accessibility, and discuss their viability during workshops.

Data usage: Ensuring data democratization, along with security, transparency, accessibility, accuracy, and reporting in plain language that is easy to understand across demographics. We accomplish this by:

  • Engaging citizens with digital and face-to-face Open Data workshops and town halls that address concerns across regions.
  • Training frontline partners and employees across departments on data policies, so they can better inform the public.
  • Distributing data policy playbooks internally and publicly, digitally reporting on the successes of data privacy and security initiatives, and recording any incidents.     
In your opinion, which emerging technologies have the potential to revolutionize smart city development in the near future?

Smart cities thrive on technologies that serve, connect, and promote efficiencies while decreasing budgetary waste. Digital automation can leverage advanced technologies, such as AI, ML, and IoT, to drive civic efficiencies, while still allowing oversight through human quality control. There are a few areas of smart city development where this may come into play.

  • Public safety: We can leverage drones, cameras, and other IoT sensors to aggregate data on traffic patterns, road usage, accident levels, crime, emergency responses, and natural disasters, enabling cities to develop real-time, actionable responses.

  • Mass transit: Aggregating data around schedules, demographics, and geolocations helps cities understand and act upon public transportation trends to create more efficient and sustainable operations.

  • Green initiatives: We can aggregate data from air quality monitors, EV charging locations, mass transit designs, smart sewers, smart trash removal, and smart native plant and garden designs to determine the air quality, water quality, and environmental impacts of urban development, which helps cities create solutions that support sustainability and reduce harmful practices.
Can you share any real-world examples or case studies where technology has had a significant impact on quality of life in a smart city?

Tempe, Arizona built smart city principles into its city IT strategy and ultimately earned Bloomberg's "What Works Cities" Gold Certification. The city's government has noted, “Before developing the processes that make up a smart city there must be a solid foundation for which to build. Smart, network connected devices in the field such as traffic signals, parking, and water meters require wired and wireless technology to get data to a central location where it can be analyzed and transformed to make decisions based on real-time information.”

Tempe has implemented smart systems to assess pavement quality, prioritize pavement maintenance and repairs, help citizens track their water usage, and improve patient outcomes in emergency situations within the city. To support its smart systems, Tempe is expanding high speed internet and cellular coverage, leveraging its foundational underground conduit to adopt next-gen wireless networks. Tempe's citizens can take advantage of public WiFi mapping to locate free computers and WiFi access points across the city.

The city has made additional information about its efforts available online. Those interested can learn more about the technology influencing Tempe's water management, fire response, and pavement quality.

Other cities that stand out for smart city development and innovation include San Antonio and Long Beach

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