'Smart cities' groups just formed a mega-group

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A group of technology-focused economic development organizations from around the country announced Monday that they have joined together to create a new national partnership for promoting the development of “smart cities” and “smart regions.”

The new “National Smart Coalitions Partnership” will see regional and statewide organizations based in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Texas and the Kansas City metro area formally share their best government technology-focused practices and ideas with each other via virtual monthly meetings. The group will also seek to bridge gaps between state, local and regional civic technology efforts, said Tyler Svitak, executive director of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance.

Svitak said the group was created with the idea that smart cities can’t reach the scale needed to solve complex issues without a wider network of partners. In a press release, he said: “Smart regions are the new smart cities.”

The member organizations, which began meeting informally and virtually in the fall of 2020 to share civic technology-focused ideas with each other, will use the new partnership as a resource to maximize the potential of COVID-19-based stimulus funding for new government technology projects, said Aaron Deacon, the managing director of KC Digital Drive, a digital advocacy organization based in Kansas City. The pandemic made it “seem not quite as weird to have cross-city meetings virtually,” Deacon said.

“COVID-19 has definitely highlighted the need for what we do, and we’ve gotten involved in things we might not have otherwise done,” Deacon told StateScoop. “Even though it’s not tech per se, it’s definitely an emerging information landscape where no one is quite sure who owns what and what the right thing to do is and where people sit and how to do these projects that require multi-sector partnerships, which are all the places we play in within the smart city space.”

One of the group’s priorities is to reduce how frequently regional and local governments replicate IT efforts, Svitak told StateScoop. By regularly sharing information, the new partnership can limit the amount of work that a city or county has to do to release a request for proposals or research emerging technologies, saving time and money, Deacon said. Likewise, if a member organization identifies a successful technology within one of the group’s focus areas — cybersecurity, sustainability, transportation or connectivity — other organizations can scale similar tools much quicker with confidence that they’ll work.

“It really comes from a project and activity basis,” Deacon said. “You see all these opportunities, needs or things partners want to do in your community. How do you do them more effectively?”

Jen Sanders, the executive director of the North Texas Innovation Alliance, told StateScoop that one of the new partnership’s initial focuses will be to share revenue models. Dallas released a call for solutions to the public on the topic and will share the results with the other NSCP members, Sanders said, so they can all learn and share their own experiences using various solutions.

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Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, Dallas, National Smart Coalitions Partnership, North Texas, Smart Cities, Smart regions