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Report of the Digital Government Review

Appendix D – Smart Cities

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There are a number of reasons why any government needs to consider how digital technology and services can enhance the performance of cities and regions:

  • A large percentage of our population live, work and visit cities. 80% of the UK population live in cities, with over 30% in the 10 largest [200]. The global trend for increasing urbanization applies equally to the UK, with particularly strong growth rates in economically dynamic cities [201].
  • Most of our economic activity occurs in cities, where different skills and professions, customers and suppliers are within close proximity. To thrive, all these enterprises, whether large corporations, SME or social enterprises need reliable infrastructure and services.

This concept of the digital, connected and integrated city has been discussed for some time now using terms such as smart cities, smarter cities, connected councils, connected communities, smarter communities and future cities.

The common thread through all of these terms is the belief that new and emerging digital technologies and techniques can be used to improve our towns and cities. To make them better places to meet, to work, to innovate and to live. These are technologies that are beyond moving forms online or integrating delivery organisations and services such as health and social care. Smart city technologies typically include new hardware such as a smart sensor that monitors car parking spaces.

Governments and cities around the world are working to develop these capabilities. The US has some of the more mature examples (e.g. Boston and Chicago) and a growing evidence base of the potential benefits to encourage more cities to invest. Other countries have created new cities virtually from scratch (for example Masdar City in Abu Dhabi or Songdo in South Korea). European cities present different challenges, with ancient architecture and infrastructure, yet many cities (for example Stockholm, Berlin and Barcelona) are using innovative digital technologies to deliver improved services.

Case Study – The Chicago story

Chicago has invested significantly in the Smart Cities concept, following the vision of its forceful mayor Rahm Emmanuel. They are now seen as one of the leading examples of a Smart City, both in the US and internationally.

Chicago recognized that a smart city will not be built in a single political cycle. So the responsibilities and expectation for both digital service development and the release of data has been embedded into the cities organisational structure. Different political parties may have differing priorities for service development but the underlying need for digital to enable these services remains constant.

A key theme in their approach to Smart Cities has been to identify and address problems of digital access and actively engage with the population. They are targeting areas of deprivation and providing Wifi and broadband access. The administration release large amounts of data as open data. They regard the data as the people’s data, rather than owned by city departments or politicians.

Citizens are consulted and involved in various ways. For the “Chicago: City of Big Data” exhibition they used a room sized 3D model of the city as an interactive platform to display open data. Large digital screens display the “Chicago Dashboard”, described as an open, civic resource to display updated information about the city for areas such as housing, employment, transport, environment and planning.

Citizens are actively engaged in service design and development. A number of regional community groups around the city are engaged when building, designing and testing new services, with more than 500 volunteer testers available in Civic User Testing Groups across the city to test services in development.

[200] “Smart Cities: Background Paper”: Department of Business Innovation and Skills, October 2013
[201] See:

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