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“It Is Clear Cities Are On The Back-Foot” – Dublin’s Jamie Cudden in “A New Digital Deal”

Jamie Cudden, Smart City Program Leader at Dublin City Council

The promise of the smart city has been underdelivered on to date. But the digitalization of our communities is now set to get real: the next 5 years will see a large scale transformation like we have never experienced before.

Entrepreneurs are now able to deploy services that were once the exclusive remit of governments or large institutions. At the same time, we are moving away from ‘exclusive’ proprietary technology platforms and solutions traditionally associated with large technology companies to a democratization of technology where solutions and applications are becoming much more accessible to all. This applies to all societal domains: from mobility services, environmental monitoring, to safety and surveillance, it is clear that there is an increasing blurriness between the delivery of these services by private entities and city governments.

A whole range of silicon-valley and VC backed companies are taking on governments and delivering mobility services such as ride share, micro-mobility and other services that were once considered to be the ‘exclusive’ remit of transit agencies or regulated services. We are starting to see new models of mobility services emerge which mix public and private services. In a similar manner the delivery of new connectivity technologies such as 5G will require a new role for cities in how they share assets and work collaboratively with industry to ensure the best coverage options for communities.

We will soon have to figure out how we use airspace in our cities – as the rapid increase in drone technologies is creating new opportunities for emergency services, city surveying, environmental monitoring and logistics in our cities.

For all these new technologies it is clear that cities are on the back-foot. Some cities are not equipped to adapt to this change – some block it by default, while others are open to experimenting more. Do we have the confidence that cities are taking the right decisions to protect citizens and communities? Who can we trust with these opportunities and also ensure that they are applied in the right way? Do we have the right skill- sets within in our city administrations to manage and navigate this change? How can we ensure that we don’t lose access to the very data that we require to best manage our cities? These are some of the most critical questions we collectively face at the moment and it fundamentally imperative we respond to them effectively.

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