There is no shortage of challenges facing smaller cities and counties that want to be “smart” — or “intelligent” — said Xavier Hughes, ICMA’s chief technology and innovation officer, at the first full day of the 104th ICMA Annual Conference in Baltimore, Md. Hughes is a veteran of the Obama administration, as chief innovation office at the Department of Labor, and also a successful entrepreneur.
Smaller cities and counties face the challenges of limited resources, fast-moving technology, a confusing vendor ecosystem, obstacles from either the state or federal level and competition from the biggest cities, including New York, which are leaping ahead of the pack in smart technologies, data collection and data analysis.
That said, Hughes argued, there is hope for smaller cities and counties. Lacking advanced technologies and infrastructure often means there is less legacy infrastructure to replace, he noted. The biggest cities face a higher level of public pressure and are bombarded by vendor pitches. Smaller municipalities, Hughes argued, have greater latitude in their decision-making even if they have less money and fewer resources.
And, at multiple points in his presentation, Hughes emphasized the importance of local government officials in the work they do and the services they provide. He shared personal stories of how local government helped him. These remarks echoed what he said last month in an interview with EfficientGov:
“You are the heartbeat of America. Without your leadership and guidance, we are a rudderless ship. Never forget that. As such, it is our responsibility to empower, advise and support you however necessary, so the right decisions are made, in the most cost efficient manner, while delivering the highest value the market can offer for our communities. And ICMA will accompany you every step of the way.”
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