Skip to content

What is the Digital Transformation of Cities? 

So far, the story of the twenty-first century has been a story of the digital transformation of our lives. The way we work, the way we live, and the ways we communicate with friends and family have all been revolutionized by digital tools. 

These changes have happened to organizations, too, of course, like private businesses and nonprofits. But, now we’re starting to see change on an even larger scale with the digital transformation of cities. 

Civic leaders worldwide are looking for ways to leverage the power of new smart technology and cloud-based services to transform how their cities operate. That is no wonder, given the potential of smart technology to improve how we live and work. Driven by interest from city and regional planners, the global market for smart services is expected to more than double from over $40 billion to nearly $98 billion by 2026. 

In this article, we’ll explain what a smart city is and discuss exactly what the digital transformation of cities is all about. And if you’re interested in learning how your local government can start making a move towards becoming a smart city, we have tools we think you should consider. 

What Are Smart Cities? 

For over 60 years, the world’s population has steadily shifted from rural to urban living. And today, over 56 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. As that trend inevitably continues, city governments will find themselves struggling to meet the needs of every citizen. 

Practically every aspect of how a city runs and all of the services they need to deliver will be strained by this continued, steady growth. Growing populations will tax transportation, communications, public works, and all of their infrastructure. 

In recent decades, many city leaders have looked for IT solutions to relieve some of that strain. Cities that use IT to manage and control those public services are called “smart cities.” They look to use sensor networks, IoT devices, and modern software management systems to monitor and manage their services. 

The process of shifting from traditional, twentieth-century city management practices to this networked future is the digital transformation of cities, sometimes shorthanded as “City 4.0.” 

Not Just Technology, It’s About People and Organizations 

The digital transformation of cities shouldn’t be about using new technology just for technology’s sake. It’s really about using IT to improve how people live and work. 

Cities that fail to adopt strategies for purchasing and using IT tools to improve how their citizens live or their workers carry out their jobs will just be wasting money. An effective smart city is still powered by and for its people. It will just be a community of people tied together by services and organizations that run on the latest technology

Digital Transformations Are About Improving Quality of Life 

Adopting smart technology for city management is about making life better for citizens and public servants. A survey of city leaders worldwide, conducted jointly by Forbes and Intel, revealed most found a positive return on investment in smart technology in areas like public safety, waste management, and energy grid management. Here are some of the specific ways smart technology can improve the quality of life in your city. 

Better public safety 

Smart systems can revolutionize how cities provide law enforcement, fire, and other public safety services. Law enforcement agencies can use collected data to analyze how they distribute police officers and other resources and automatically reallocate them on the fly. For example, real-time incident mapping can highlight hotspots of criminal activity. 

Cities could update their 411 service assistance offices to include a web-based service desk for citizens to make non-emergency requests of public safety agencies. This self-service option could free operators to deal with higher priority tasks while getting citizen requests routed efficiently. 

More efficient public transportation 

Shortening daily commutes is one basic quality of life improvement every city wants to make. Smart technology offers many options for making that a reality. For example, cities can deploy sensor networks on their buses and trains so riders can receive real-time updates on transit schedules. Sensor networks can also help technicians identify maintenance issues on vehicles and infrastructure before an operator might otherwise notice them. Linking traffic lights throughout a city can also help optimize traffic flow during peak and non-peak travel times. 

Those same self-service portals that might be useful for 411 services can be used internally by public transit workers. For example, drivers and conductors can submit maintenance reports for their vehicles. Likewise, station managers can request services, materials, or other items from their central office. 

More environmentally sustainable operations 

Many civic leaders are concerned about the sustainability of their city’s infrastructure. Whether due to concerns about climate change, economic upheaval, or changing population density, these leaders see challenges in the years ahead. 

Smart management systems can help cities monitor water and electricity usage. For example, networked waste management systems connect waste bins and other receptacles to central monitoring platforms. Those bins can automatically notify disposal teams when they’re full. Central platforms can also help citizens request services from different departments through a unified interface.  


Become Future-ready with C2 

Smart cities of the future will be powered by the data they collect, and how they use it. That data is the fuel from which their people and IT systems will make intelligent decisions about how civic departments operate. But that data will only be useful if it is collected and organized in central platforms that civic leaders can use to manage operations across all their departments. 

This principle is called Enterprise Service Management (ESM). ESM takes ideas that originated in information technology and applies them to all service-focused operations, such as the public service operations in a city. C2 is an ITSM and ESM platform that any city looking to undertake a digital transformation should consider.  

C2 is an all-in-one service management platform that helps municipal departments collaborate and deliver better service. It’s also a codeless, cloud-native solution, so it’s easy for departments of any size with any set of resources to use.