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Tel Aviv offers 6 lessons for Smart Cities

Tel Aviv was voted as the “Best Smart City in 2014’ at the Barcelona Smart City expo, beating 250 other cities from around the world to the title. This distinction was based mainly on DigiTel, a personalized digital communications network.

Every resident can sign up as a member of DigiTel and use their smart members cards for discounts on city services, and cultural and sports events. Based on their profile, members get customized digital services, such as information on road closures, special offers for families, offers for pet owners etc. DigiTel also serves as a digital platform that promotes citizens’ participation and encourages them to be proactive.

Today, Tel Aviv’ s digital transformation continues. It recently hosted the Muni World 2018 international event, for municipalities. This success, as is evident by DigiTel, is based mostly on the idea that a true digital transformation is not only about digitizing existing services, but about inventing new ones that motivate and engage citizens. Tel Aviv’ s success can offer several lessons for other smart cities. These are listed below and are currently being exported to aspiring smart cities in India.

  1. Fostering Internal Collaboration: Usually, each city department works separately providing specialized services, which harms collaboration and prevents the emergence of a unified vision. Digitalizing services and providing a joint central digital knowledge repository helps coordinate the work of different departments and foster internal collaboration.
  2. Benefiting from Personalization: Digital transformation should make communications from the city to its residents as customized and personalized as possible, which makes the work of the municipality more efficient and more gratifying to the residents.
  3. Facilitating dialogues, decision-making and digital transformation: Allowing and encouraging city-citizens dialogues allows citizens to participate, to discuss specific issues related to their neighborhoods and lives, and to participate in the decision-making process. This is an integral part of making big decisions.
  4. Measuring and tracking actions and results: This is invaluable in monitoring the progress and success of the digital transformation. The data helps support new ideas and suggestions regarding what needs to be improved where and how.
  5. Turning the physical into digital: Digitization of smart cities transforms them from physical spaces into digital ecosystems. Tel-Aviv’ s municipal geographic information system, iView, provides residents, professionals, commuters, and tourists with all the spatial, location-specific information they need.
  6. Not discounting the importance of physical spaces: At the same time, cities should not substitute the digital for the physical. The importance of continuing to invest in the physical environment and improving it should not be neglected. Tel Aviv offers an excellent example of this, with its new promenade.

The full article, by Gil Press, can be found on Forbes.