Last month, I shared thoughts on what it means to be a smart city (hint: there’s more to it than deploying IoT solutions). This month, I’m excited to announce that the Microsoft team is supporting Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s new Smart Region Initiative (or SRI for short), which will look to tackle some of the region’s most pressing urban challenges by leveraging technology through a coordinated, regional approach. The initiative brings together stakeholders from the public, private, and non-profit sector and will begin by focusing on topics that include data sharing and analytics, applications of IoT technology, and digital inclusion to drive community impact.
So why, you might ask, is this important? A few reasons stand out. First, for anyone who is from the Silicon Valley region, you’re probably acutely aware of how many different jurisdictions exist here (and if you’re not, see Joint Venture’s map, but note that this map doesn’t even include all the special jurisdictions that exist, such as school, transportation, and water districts). As a resident, you are also unlikely to care which jurisdiction’s responsibility it is to ensure you have a seamless commute, have access to public amenities, and live in a clean and safe environment—it just needs to happen. As public agencies increasingly leverage technology to create smarter, more responsive communities, interoperability is critical for long-term sustainability particularly when there are so many different players in an environment where virtually all our urban challenges transcend several—if not more—borders. Our solutions, then, must do the same, and interoperable solutions require coordination and open dialogue.
Aside from idea that regional problems require regional solutions, there is much to gain from scale. In many cases, collaboration on smart region solutions to problems in the transportation, public safety and other spaces will result in cost savings and, frankly, better solutions. Open data is a great example. There is no reason each jurisdiction needs to spend money to have its own open data platform to facilitate consumption of public information. A regional data platform, such as this one in Alleghany County, could save some jurisdictions tens of thousands of dollars (not to mention lots of time and technical expertise), and would be more convenient for a citizen looking to find public information. It would also make inter-jurisdictional data sharing and analysis far easier, and perhaps more meaningful.
Finally, working regionally builds collaborative opportunity. The more that leaders and stakeholders from different jurisdictions interact with one another, the more opportunity there is to learn new approaches, build new relationships, and work together. Collaborative problem solving—and particularly cross-sector problem solving–requires a huge amount of trust, but establishing continuous lines of communication can help create it.
If you’re interested in learning more or joining the Joint Venture Smart Region Initiative, you can request more information here. You can also sign up for their newsletter on the initiative’s home page.