Discusses core functions and governance processes of a city
- Where exactly do city functions begin and end? It's not an easy question to answer. Cities are highly complex, with lots of participants. For example, in modern economies, the private sector plays a sizable role. Over the past few decades, privatization has moved functions of government into private hands, sometimes entirely. Today, for example, the private sector plays a big role in providing education from kindergarten to college.
It provides many security services. It runs prisons, and big parts of health care. The private sector dominates in transportation options, and in providing energy. Many of these have historically been city and government services. We must note that the parts of cities run by governments differs greatly across the world. This is an important context as we think about the future of our cities. It is my belief that when we consider urban innovation, it must be in the context of a specific region, culture, and country.
We risk getting it wrong if we overly generalize. That said, I'd like to present just a few areas that still represent core city functions. These will be important later as we discuss smarter cities. While not exhaustive by any means, here are nine common municipal areas. In no particular order. Number one, buildings. Cities care deeply about the architecture and design of buildings.
That they are safe, and that they meet certain codes, like environmental, and plumbing, and electrical. Number two, data and networks. Today, it almost goes without saying, that telecommunications are vital in a modern urban environment. Most cities believe, and many require, universal access to telecommunications and almost all aspire to high-speed Internet access.
Number three, economics. Cities and their local government recognize the need to help create the economic environment for job and wealth creation. This is often done through tax incentives, making available grants and loans, and special zones set aside for encouraging industry development. Number four, energy. Cities expect energy to be delivered safely, without interruption, and at affordable costs.
There are many roles a city must play from regulation to safety. In some cases a city will be the sole provider of energy. Number five, government services. This is a broad category, and includes things like issuing permits, and birth certificates. It includes support for the electoral system, and city planning. It's a vast number of services that simply don't get provided by any other sector in the economy.
Number six, public safety. Most cities take police, fire, and emergency services for granted. But these are expensive and complex services. They are increasingly supplemented by the private sector, but largely remain core city services. Number seven, transport. This area is also broad. It includes areas such as the regulation of taxes, the functioning of traffic signals, the construction of new roads, and bike paths.
It includes trains, buses, and street signs, and services such as parking lots, and parking enforcement. Number eight, waste management. As we all know, today we generate an enormous amount of waste. Who picks it up? Where does it go? And how is it then finally disposed of? It's a big, messy business that cities can't avoid. They either take the lead, which is mostly common, or they work with private businesses, which is becoming more popular.
And finally, number nine, water. Without this, there's no life. For many of us, we simply turn on a tap, and water flows. There is a massive and complex infrastructure to support this. Getting abundant, clean, and low cost water to everyone cannot be taken for granted. Whether because of drought, environmental damage, or leaks in the system, water management remains one of our most important city responsibilities, and challenges ahead.
When I think about this list, I'm reminded about the diversity and complexity of our urban environments. Each one of these nine domains requires special skills, process, and technologies. Each one of these areas is experiencing unfortunate duress, as demands and expectations increase. While it's easy to be overwhelmed, I'm also optimistic by our ability to step up to the challenges ahead.
We'll discuss this more in the upcoming videos in this course.
- The challenges of rapid urban development
- Understanding the basic functions and needs of 21st century cities
- Exploring what makes a smart city smart
- How smart cities are planned and maintained
- The role of big data in driving urban innovation
- Open data and smart cities
- Smart cities and the Internet of Things