Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

#DigitalCitizen Series: City Leaders Converge to Learn From Each Other

October 30, 2015

Changing our outlook in a changing world

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked the question “What is a smart city really?”, I would definitely have enough change to buy a round of drinks. However, working for a company active in sustainable and innovative urban development, I genuinely believe in the importance of the smart city concept.

However, experience has shown that there is no standard template and each city must define what it means to become smart – focusing on the wellbeing of citizens and the economic prosperity of businesses. And, that each city will be different, with its own ideas and plans depending on local needs and wants.

The common thread in developing these ideas and plans is, and will continue to be, the use of technology. Today, businesses are planning for digital transformation on a massive scale. The trend is also for governments to follow that lead or, in some case, to actually take the lead. Whether it is through collaboration initiatives, embracing cloud computing, or driving more informed decisions through data analytics, there are unprecedented opportunities to evolve towards digital government.

Join the world’s most thoughtful industry leaders

Last week our citizen had the unique opportunity of joining the ranks of global innovators and leaders at the leading edge of urban sustainability and digital technology. Meeting of the Minds kicked off last week, and more than 400 executives from 25 countries – from public and private sector, with a focus on philanthropy, and from academia – joined our citizen in Richmond, California.

The 3-day summit focussed on delivering smarter public services and building better city systems, enabled by forward-looking public policies, intelligent infrastructure, and digital technologies.

Our citizen heard and witnessed a wide range of topics. First, was discussion around urban transportation. There’s no doubt that global communities are seeing a fast- growing need to develop and implement public transit options and solve the interface between people and mobility systems. Dubai’s initiatives are enticing more people toward using public transportation by offering all services 24/7 via handheld devices and by enhancing the traveler experience with uniform ticketing and easy payment options, no-stop tollgates, and smart parking meters.

Next, our citizen looked into a session on comprehensive and accessible healthcare, and on how it is so critical to the economic vitality of communities. Despite increasing expenditure on healthcare, our citizen knows that most countries and communities are under performing and under delivering against key healthcare outcomes. Pioneers in health and wellbeing are focusing on how to make improvements, particularly for those in underdeveloped and underserved parts of the world. Sichuan, China is a leading example where new ground is being broken through innovative models of cross-industry collaboration. Through integration with upstream determinants of health, such as education attainment, economic development, and community organisation, Sichuan has significantly improved access to medical care.

Our digital citizen then moved on to discuss environmental sustainability, a core pillar of the smart city concept. In our increasingly digital world, the quality of air and water, the movement of people and objects, the changes in weather, traffic congestion, CO2 levels, and the production and consumption of energy, can all be measured, tracked and controlled in real time. But, it is through interconnecting all these elements that we are beginning to see smarter solutions for environmental and resource sustainability. For example, Water for People works closely with governments and private sector organisations to create and deliver an open-source smart device application that helps to provide clean water and basic sanitation services to people in disadvantaged communities around the world.

And finally, he went on to the topic of education and how to prepare the next generation workforce. Prior to the session, our citizen began by pondering how we can properly prepare a workforce for an ever changing and ever more competitive environment. Academic institutions like San Jose State University are bridging the gap between traditional and innovative education methods, using digital technologies to promote anytime, anywhere learning. And, the very best schools must position themselves as vital contributors to digital community initiatives.

Vigorous smart city and digital government conversations are underway all over the world. One of the most important themes that emerged on the Meeting of the Minds agenda was financing challenges. This year’s Meeting has a track focused on the financing strategies that have been shown to work for early adopters. Best practice sharing showed that there are clear steps that can be taken, such as getting assistance in leading projects, improving planning, and achieving a better understanding of the cost and benefits of a smart city.

Gatherings such as Meeting of the Minds are enabling cities and countries to respond to increasingly complex challenges. It’s important that leaders and innovative thinkers continue to showcase best practices developed inside living labs, and allow the proliferation of ideas to help develop a smarter, more sustainable world.

You can find out more about the Meeting program at

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next week’s post to discover more information on keeping digital communities safer and more secure. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.

Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #DigitalCitizen and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter.

For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on

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  1. Excellent.