Cities, Data, and Digital Innovation
The Paper “Cities, Data, and Digital Innovation”, published by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG ), Canada, looks at opportunities for city governments to harness the data revolution. The paper charts the course of big data and digital innovation in Toronto and London, UK, and offers a recipe for success.
Mark Kleinman, the author, works for the Greater London Authority (GLA) where he leads the Mayor of London’s Economic and Business Policy Team.
Local governments are abuzz with the opportunities that Big Data, Open Government, and Smart Cities offer to drive economic growth, improve transparency and accountability, build public engagement, and deliver higher quality city services at lower costs. In a new IMFG Paper, Cities, Data, and Digital Innovation, co-sponsored by the Innovation Policy Lab (IPL) and the City of Toronto, Mark Kleinman disentangles these overlapping ideas and charts how governments in Toronto, Canada and London, England have responded to them.
Kleinman identifies a number of factors can help cities harness the power of the data revolution. Cities need to:
- develop comprehensive strategies, based on understanding the strengths of their economies, and the city’s role in the global production chain;
- promote both the start-up and scale-up of local digital innovators, and link innovators to the city’s challenges;
- build support from higher level governments and create strong partnerships with local universities;
- become intelligent clients for smart city solutions; and
- implement digital inclusion policies to ensure all citizens benefit.
Developments in digital innovation and the availability of large-scale data sets create opportunities for new economic activities and new ways of delivering city services while raising concerns about privacy. This paper defines the terms Big Data, Open Data, Open Government, and Smart Cities and uses two case studies – London (U.K.) and Toronto – to examine questions about using data to drive economic growth, improve the accountability of government to citizens, and offer more digitally enabled services. The paper notes that London has been one of a handful of cities at the forefront of the Open Data movement and has been successful in developing its high-tech sector, although it has so far been less innovative in the use of “smart city” technology to improve services and lower costs. Toronto has also made efforts to harness data, although it is behind London in promoting Open Data. Moreover, although Toronto has many assets that could contribute to innovation and economic growth, including a growing high-technology sector, world-class universities and research base, and its role as a leading financial centre, it lacks a clear narrative about how these assets could be used to promote the city. The paper draws some general conclusions about the links between data innovation and economic growth, and between open data and open government, as well as ways to use big data and technological innovation to ensure greater efficiency in the provision of city services.