Get a short overview of the emergence and current functions of an average city government.
- In the world today local government plays an essential role in each of our lives. It's often the most visible and impactful of all public administrations on a day-to-day basis. Government exists on multiple tiers in society. Countries have national administrations and they may have state, province, prefecture, county and many more, or perhaps less depending on where you live in the world. Local governments are those that exist below the state level and usually act with powers delegated from legislation.
For the purposes of this course, local government will generally be synonymous with city administration. Just a few years ago, the number of people living in cities exceeded those in rural areas. We're now an urban majority planet. Over 3.7 billion humans now live in cities and remarkably, over two million more people move in to cities each week. Over the next few decades, two billion more people will live in cities.
It's a significant trend and reminds us of the importance of our cities and the governance that runs them. In the United States alone there are almost 90,000 local governments and they employ 12 million people. The numbers for individual cities vary considerably and are dependent on size and complexity of the city. In New York City, for example, there are 325,000 employees. Whereas as small city like Palo Alto, California has just over 1000.
Local public agencies in the United States have over 5,000 different job classifications. The work they do spans a vast variety of required skills that include police and fire, park maintenance, public works for activities, such as, city building, maintenance and road repair. Library management, transportation management, permitting, inspectors, technology and more. Some cities provide essential utilities such as power and water, when there are no alternative providers.
Municipalities have complex interdependencies as they are not islands. They must work with and support some of the needs of the private sector, with school districts, with hospitals and with court systems. They must collaborate with neighboring towns and cities, with counties, states and with the national government. Cities are increasingly engaged on international issues, such as climate change and efforts to elicit foreign investment. They sign agreements with foreign cities and host visiting delegations.
Cities must focus on livability, workability and sustainability for their communities. A topic we'll visit many times in this course. None of this is getting easier and in fact the pressure and complexity of local government has never been greater. Communities increasingly encouraged by innovation and service expectations delivered in the private sector, now demand higher quality and more responsive government. People want a louder voice in their local democracy and are demanding increased levels of transparency and integrity.
In many areas, local governments are doing a better job at delivering. Driven by the use of technology, greater community accountability, and a new generation of civic leaders. They're working hard to reduce urban blight and crime, to support more green spaces, and develop a renewed sense of community and place. Many cities around the world are enjoying a new optimism as engines of prosperity, choice and increasing equality, but these positives are not evenly distributed and the work ahead is significant in terms of volume and complexity.
Cities still struggle with economic opportunity and social inclusiveness. They also know that they are now in the front line of battling and adapting to climate change. The role of local government has never been more important to our lives. To be successful, cities will need lots of great ideas and great people. They will need to embrace innovation and technology in completely new ways. Opportunity will be abundant for those that choose to serve and this is what we'll talk about next.
Leading CIO Jonathan Reichental explains the function of cities, the role of technology in cities, and the different IT jobs available. He also provides practical tips to prepare for an IT career in city government, including tips on getting the right training, building a résumé, preparing and acing the interview, and getting ready for the first day on the job.