As the level of government closest to the citizen, cities and municipalities play a central role in society and are the gateway to other levels of government. It is therefore essential that these policy-makers evolve to meet the needs of a growing and changing population and to provide appropriate services.
At KPMG, we believe that the three focus areas below are the key elements in this continuous evolution and modernization. Initiatives in each of these areas are a necessity and can be tackled individually, but when combined in an ambitious transformation, each of these initiatives in the three areas will reinforce each other and have a significant impact.
Our cities and towns are pinnacles of growth of prosperity, culture, innovation and social progress. In order to achieve this, however, they have to deal with problems such as congestion, insecurity, vacancies, noise pollution, air pollution and social exclusion. First and foremost, this requires a great deal of data, on mobility, the flow of people, the supply of culture and shops, the environment and living together. This is what 'smart cities' are aiming for: collecting and analyzing data in real time and taking - often proactive - measures on this basis.
Data-driven policy-making simplifies the decision-making process and strengthens local policy by identifying, disclosing and linking existing data.
The changing expectations of citizens mean that public authorities need to rethink what needs have to be met at which level of government. Since citizens and businesses often have a very good understanding of the concrete and practical needs and challenges of their city or municipality, initiatives such as civic participation and digital neighborhood networks can help policy-makers with the transformation and evaluation of their services. Only when the right core tasks have been determined at each level can the transition to this new form of administrative organizations commence. Cooperation is necessary at various levels: within the various policy domains and institutions in a city or municipality, via (voluntary) mergers between municipalities or via regional activities in which different levels of government, citizens and other partners are involved. This cooperation offers advantages in terms of scale and specialization.
Citizens increasingly expect services to be provided digitally. Cities and municipalities must respond to this, but also take into account the different degrees of digital experience and knowledge within their population. Digital citizens are familiar with the latest technological applications such as apps and e-service desks and expect the same from their city or municipality. But not everyone can follow the rapid pace of digitization and this target group will continue to make use of traditional channels such as the physical counter or the telephone.
The digitization of services can be cost effective, but also requires an adapted infrastructure and architecture of the local authorities. Given that these challenges occur in different cities and municipalities, it is therefore necessary for there to be a sufficient degree of mutual knowledge sharing, so that the reuse and mutualization of certain digital solutions can easily be shared.
The challenge is clear: to make the transition to a city or municipality that is smart, integrated and digital, in order to make better decisions and to assist citizens and businesses in the best and most targeted way possible.
Read our full vision paper on the road to a smart and future-oriented city below in French or Dutch.