5 Features of Best-Run Cities

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

“Five by five” was originally two-way radio parlance for signal strength and clarity (another way of saying “loud and clear”) and later used in the 1986 sci-fi classic Aliens to forecast smooth atmospheric entry from space. Now, “five by five” is the mainstay of SAP Urban Matters.

SAP Urban Matters partners with metropolitan governments that want to transform themselves into better-run cities. The initiative tailors solutions that enable cities to thrive, innovate, and improve citizens’ lives using a “five by five” approach.

Best-run cities build themselves on five components:

  • Good governance
  • Empowered users
  • Engaged communities
  • Innovative services
  • Urban resilience

These components depend on working within five high-tech areas:

  • Cloud
  • Analytics
  • Applications
  • Mobile
  • Database & Technology

Having mastered these five high-tech areas already, SAP helps metropolitan governments combine them with the five features of best-run cities. This, in turn, helps cities run “five by five.”

Next page: No “one size fits all” solution

Cities are like people, each with unique and specific needs, challenges, and personalities. So when a city has problems, the solution provider must find what works for that particular municipality.

Just because something worked for a port city in Australia doesn’t mean it will work for a port city in Italy.

No “one size fits all” solution

“Our cities are built on systems as complex and manifold as our dreams,” an SAP Urban Matters video states. “They face ever-growing challenges in administration, finance, public safety, infrastructure and supply.”

Public sector software is one example of how SAP can help cities improve the performance of their policies, operations and programs. These solutions feature integrated secure information sharing to increase fiscal and operational efficiency, while making it easier for citizens to connect.

Examples from Boston and Edmonton

In the U.S., Boston uses SAP technology to help city workers share data across departments, improve transparency for citizens and show how their government spends tax money. And in Canada, Edmonton uses Big Data solutions to redesign intersections; track the decreasing number of accidents, collisions and fatalities; and monitor cost savings.

Edmonton shares data and the public creates applications, which saves taxpayer money and makes it easier for departments to share information, the city’s CIO told SAP Business Trends. Providing open data for co-creation and collaboration helps Edmonton communicate better with its constituents via citizen dashboards, privately developed mobile applications, and gamification.

Next page: Open data initiatives

Open data initiatives are happening in democracies around the world at all levels of government. Such programs seek “to ‘liberate’ government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship … and create jobs,” a White House Web site stated.

But that doesn’t mean the floodgates holding back all municipal data should swing open. Cities must determine what will best nurture accountability and innovation, according to “The Dynamics of Opening Government Data,” a recent report by the Albany-based Center for Technology in Government.

Open government cleans up New York restaurants

Restaurant owners in New York were outraged when the city first made public its restaurant inspection data in 2007, but unexpectedly high citizen query volumes crashed the Web site. Poorly reviewed restaurants cleaned up their acts and clamored for do-overs, and the city hired more people to meet increasing demand for follow-up inspections.

Not everyone will be happy with all open government decisions. But New York’s restaurants are cleaner thanks to open government.

Likewise, innovation and accountability will not be possible if administrations and agencies do not manage and update their open data initiatives. Boston’s municipal departments communicate better with improved technology, and Edmonton’s streets are safer to drive thanks to well-administered data.

And now all of these cities run “five by five.”