Digital city services: The new infrastructure for globally competitive communities

Thu, 2019-06-13 05:38 -- Adam Beck

Across Australia and New Zealand, we are seeing our populations grow, along with the community’s expectations for a high level of service, and experience with the way they interact with government and their local community. While these expectations grow, budgets are in some towns shrinking, and for many cities rates are being capped.

This is driving more and more cities to make their services available by web or smartphone, essentially creating ‘digital city services’.

“Delivering city services digitally is more than a trend ‒ it's a race," explains Smart Cities Council Executive Director Adam Beck. "Cities that successfully make the transition are able to achieve 'happier for less' ‒ spending less to increase citizen satisfaction, Beck says."

Cities are also “going digital” to gain competitive advantage, in what is a global internet economy, with unlimited opportunities accessible from a simple web browser. The internet, essentially, is the core backbone for the smart city.

For some services, an online interaction can cost as much as 50 times less than face-to-face. And with most citizens greatly preferring the convenience of 24x7 self-service access from a web browser or phone, delivering citizens services this way makes sense on many fronts.

The benefits are compelling, for both cities and citizens alike, when city leaders make digital services a priority. Among the benefits of digital city services are:

  • Increased citizen engagement
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Increased competitiveness
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Reduced costs.

Singapore's SingPass system, for example, gives citizens a single site and single password to interact with nearly five dozen government agencies that provide nearly 300 digital services.

And in Boston, the BOS:311 app lets citizens report things that need fixing, such as potholes or public lighting. Once fixed, a city worker snaps a photo of the repair and sends it to whoever reported the problem.

And in our own backyard in Australia, the City of Boroondara in Victoria has handed down its business case for its ‘Customer First Program’, which is shaping up to be one of Australia’s most ambitious digital transformations which is set to bring the best customer experience to its community, whilst generating over $180M in benefits. Its investment in next generation customer-centric technology and data solutions will help realise these benefits.

Embracing digital inclusion so all citizens have access to services, not only has social benefits, but presents economic opportunities. The characteristics of customer-centric solutions and the move toward digital solutions as a service, has the potential to allow budget-constrained cities to lease solutions via month-by-month and ‘as a service’ models. This is further delivering savings for local government organisations who can free up capital expenditure and allocate that to programs and initiatives that drive further opportunity for citizens.

Beck says “digital and data is the new infrastructure our cities require to stay competitive, and help supercharge the outcomes and experiences that our citizens are now expecting.”