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Accelerating the Digital Transformation of smart cities and smart communities

The IDC white paper “Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Smart Cities and Smart Communities” presents how cities can take advantage of emerging technologies to: implement a cloud platform for cost containment, security, and flexibility; update work practices and foster a strong workforce; and stay compliant and address privacy, accessibility, and cybersecurity concerns. Moreover, it contains a useful checklist to help your smart city navigate potential challenges.


Cities around the world face many challenges, such as global competition for talent and business investment, rapidly growing and aging populations, increasing concerns over climate change, economic inequality and the digital divide, and keeping pace with technology innovations that have changed resident expectations for personalized, mobile government services. To address these complex, systemic challenges, cities must architect Smart City initiatives to connect disparate operations and siloed processes, starting with smaller, focused, department-level projects and growing, step by step, to a unified city ecosystem.

Smart Cities are, by design, municipalities that address these challenges via a process of digital transformation (DX); in fact, the mission of Smart Cities can be described as “outcomes-based digital transformation’. This means using new methods of innovation and creativity, and new sources of information, to enhance experiences, increase sustainability and resilience, and improve financial and operational performance. IT that uses a combination of cloud, mobility, and data analytics has the power to provide new solutions to long-standing urban challenges and enable new experiences for residents and communities, visitors and tourists, and local businesses.

According to IDC cities are, by definition, systems of interconnected physical and human systems, and this is what makes digital transformation challenging. The ICT systems must mirror the physical and human systems to also work as systems of interconnected systems as this provides the basis for solving systemic and complex urban problems.

FIGURE 1: The Value of Connecting Systems: Intelligent Transportation (Source IDC)

IDC’ s research points to four areas fundamental for cities to both accelerate and scale Smart City transformation:

  • Platforms ‘” cloud platforms: A cloud-first platform strategy enables improved privacy, interoperability, security and secure data sharing, scalability, and fast, agile app development and testing. A platform on which many applications can run also offers these capabilities for specialized, domain-specific applications as well as provides access to the most up-to-date technology.
  • Talent ‘” new skills and talent sourcing: With a shortage of needed skills, and an aging workforce, “reskilling’ workers and updating workplace policies are important changes to consider.
  • Processes ‘” democratized innovation: Cities must understand their risk profile and implement ways to manage risk so that they can be innovative, think up new solutions and services, and test these services in a fail-fast, iterative way.
  • Governance ‘” compliance: Compliance implies meeting or complying with a policy, law, or guideline. However, in some cases, cities actually lack updated policies to deal with the Smart City IT environment. Policies around data use, privacy, cybersecurity, and accessibility must be created.
FIGURE 2: Elements to Scale Smart City Capabilitie (Source IDC)

IDC provides a checklist of clear next steps that cities can take to continue, and even accelerate, their Smart City progress:

  • Develop Smart City strategic plan and top 10 priorities list
  • Educate city councils, community groups, business associations on value of initiatives
  • Ask potential partners and suppliers to test their products and services; focus on flexibility in testing and scaling new ideas
  • Do a lot of pre-RFP research
  • Retrain existing workers for needed new skills
  • Design and architect interoperable platforms
  • Manage innovation and risk like financial portfolio managers
  • Keep accessibility options ‘“ physical and sensory, financial and language accessibility – as important design consideration
  • Focus on the physical and cybersecurity of expanded security perimeter; this includes physical security for edge devices and cybersecurity of IoT/ edge infrastructure
  • Create policies for privacy and data management to ensure needed compliance from suppliers

Download the white paper “Accelerating the Digital Transformation of smart cities and smart communities”