Open Smart Cities

The pandemic has caused a massive shift and humanity has unleashed a digital flowstate for actionable solutions to our most pressing challenges. If you want to bet with the Internet, bet against the big institutions, using decentralized methodology co-create our regenerative future.

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“One should think of Covid and the crisis of this year as this giant watershed moment, where this is the first year of the 21st century. This is the year in which the new economy is actually replacing the old economy.”

Peter Thiel

One year ago as the pandemic was striking China and before North America. I wrote about our Smart Cities future.

One year later, digital adoption and transformation has finally caught up to where it should have been a decade ago. Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft had a combined revenue growth of $1.1 trillion over the past year. Even more mind-boggling, their market capitalization skyrocketed by half to a combined $8 trillion.

BUT many digital products created locally years ago are finally seeing traction through the collaboration of dedicated innovators, entrepreneurs, hackers, analysts and technologists. The Zoom fatigue is a short pain point, with remote work & fast internet, this digital revolution is decentralizing knowledge to the people instead of closed in person boardroom meetings. We have tried dozens of new virtual event and civic engagement platforms that are going to crowdsource solutions, bring us together more than ever, using peer to peer, matchmaking and digital twinning scenarios.

Introducing, testing and growing technologies to support advancements as lofty as passenger drones and as vital as vertical farms and affordable housing are some of the initiatives being explored with open smart cities. But just like a progressive business, we must have experimental zones or testbeds for our new products and services, so that people can touch, feel and collaborate on its design and production locally to enable resilience during crisis.

I have just joined Canada’s Open North as the resident futurist and rural specialist! I am very excited to be part of Canada’s first coast to coast national and diverse, smart cities team. Our Open Smart Cities program is dedicated to helping municipalities implement smart cities projects in a manner that empower their community, create trust and strengthen accountability and transparency. Have your community sign up for free civic tech and open data support from amazing partners.

Carving out a small piece of the “real world” to explore new technologies is at the root of the testbed concept. It’s why these test sites have been set up in a number of communities, spearheaded by city leaders, the private sector and nonprofits. 

It’s not hard to sell a communities citizens on the benefits of vital smart city technologies and the concept of regeneration, but we have to start with civic engagement and futurescaping scenarios.

It is very hard to get them from a vision for that future to all of the difficult plumbing steps that have to go. And that’s why we think these at-scale, these real-world testbeds, can be so important.

With a educational foundation by Open North on Open Smart Cities including…

  • Data Governance and Management
  • Data-Sharing and Data Partnerships
  • Data-Driven Public Engagement
  • Digital Inclusion and Data Literacy
  • Open Government and Open Data
  • AI Ethics and Governance
  • Open Procurement

By generating a shared understanding of your ethical baseline, a community can leapfrog into the right technologies with the right framework and the right mindset with all bases covered.

Once this is completed, testbeds are meant to explore all the finer aspects of advanced technology, including how to expand the community buy-in of these technologies. 

In addition to serving as an explainer for the community, testbeds serve the research and development needs of technology, because theoretical simulations can only go so far.

One can glean on the winners and solutions taking place for Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.

This is just the start of a decade of decentralization that will allow citizens to co-create their open smart cities, towns, villages and much more.

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