COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JOHN EGER

Where is San Diego as a Smart City?

The San Diego City Council candidate you vote for is probably more important than the presidential candidate you vote for.

Let's be frank. The strength of America's economy and as well as our political prowess in the world are inextricably linked. Smart Cities, using information technology to transform everything they do — not the federal government — are best positioned to renew and reinvent America for the new, global, knowledge-based economy.

As President Barack Obama said before a joint session of Congress, "We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world. ... We have to make America the best place on earth to do business." In short, are we one of those places? Where are we as a Smart City?

Increasingly, cities across America are starting to change the focus, deploy technology and prepare our citizens to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build every other community and thus every other nation in the world. We need to look for leadership in the cities — not Washington, D.C. — to reinvent America for the new economy.

Of course, whom we elect as president is important, but whoever emerges in 2016, he or she can accomplish only a limited amount, with so many issues outside the domain of the president's power.

Urban scholar and author Neal Pierce observed that national economies no longer exist, only a global economy and a "constellation of regional economies, with major cities at their core.”

More recently, Benjamin Barber, author of “If Mayors Ruled the World,” underscored the notion that cities are critical to almost everything we need as a country.

"The nation-state is failing us on the global scale," Barber wrote. "Cities and the mayors that run them, offer the best new forces of good governance. ...They are the primary incubator of the cultural, social and political innovations which shape our planet."

Technology, particularly the Internet of Everything (IoE), where everything is connected to almost every other thing, is providing cities with the tools to ensure safer cities; better transportation, health care, energy and water conservation; clean air and environmental services. By installing the broadband necessary for the IoE, cities are also building the platform for innovation.

The new broadband infrastructure coupled with Big Data analysis can serve to make the city government more transparent and also encourage individuals and companies to develop innovative products and services; and importantly, engage the general public to help create "efficiencies that save taxpayer money" and "build trust in the public sector."

That is at the heart of “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data Smart Governance,” by Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor of New York; and Susan Crawford, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and special assistant to both Obama and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As IBM, which launched a Smart City initiative in the past few years put it: "As cities grow in both numbers and population, they are taking their place on the world's center stage, with more economic, political and technological power than ever before. Economically, they are becoming the hubs of a globally integrated, services-based society. Politically, they are in the midst of a realignment of power — with greater influence, but also greater responsibility."

Goldman Sachs calls the IoE the third wave, and points out that while "the 1990's fixed Internet wave connected 1 billion users ... the 2000's mobile wave connected another 2 billion. The IoE has the potential to connect 10 times as many [28 billion] things to the Internet by 2020, ranging from bracelets to cars. Gartner research says that this year we already have 4.9 billion connected things.”

The payoffs are huge.

According to Cisco Systems, IoE could generate $4.6 trillion in value for the global public sector by 2022 through cost savings, productivity gains, new revenues and improved citizen experiences...

Cities have the potential to claim almost two-thirds of the civilian IoE public sector value. Cities, they believe, will capture much of this value by implementing killer apps in which "$100 billion can be saved in smart buildings alone by reducing energy consumption."

City leaders are awakening to the challengers and the opportunities before them. In just the past few years, more than 50 cities have joined forces to create an organization called Next Century Cities.

Together they have committed to embracing technology, identifying opportunities to change their current systems of police, fire, safety, transportation, health care, water and energy and more; and finding more ways to collaborate at the state, county and city level, keys to our nation's success and survival.

Where is San Diego in becoming a Smart City?


Eger, a telecommunications lawyer, is the Lionel Van Deerlin Endowed Professor of Communications and Public Policy at San Diego State University, and executive director of SDSU's International Center for Communications.

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