Informed and Interconnected: A Manifesto for Smarter Cities

January 01, 2009 by Rosabeth Kanter

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The need for a fresh approach to U.S. communities is more urgent than ever because of the biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Through examination of the barriers to solving urban problems (and the ways they reinforce each other), this paper offers a new approach to community transformation which calls for leaders to use technology to inform and connect people. We need to convert the social safety net into a social safety network through the creation of smarter communities that are information-rich, interconnected, and able to provide opportunities to all citizens. This process has already begun through such programs as Harlem Children's Zone, Baltimore's CitiStat, Elevate Miami, and others. And they can be replicated. But technology alone is not the answer. Realization of the vision requires leaders to invest in the tools, guide their use, and pave the way for transformation. Perhaps the urgency of the current economic crisis can provide the impetus to overcome resistance to change and turn problems into an opportunity to reduce costs, improve services to communities, and make our cities smarter.