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It benefits us all when local governments use new technologies to improve city services. We call that concept Smart Cities.
Smart Cities includes:
Philadelphia’s implementation of Smart Cities initiatives will help people get around faster and help itself manage city assets, such as streets, more efficiently. But where do nonprofits fit?
The City of Philadelphia’s Ellen Hwang was recognized on Generocity’s 2017 civic tech realLIST as being a leader in the city’s efforts to increase digital inclusion and civic engagement via technology. As the city’s assistant director of strategic initiatives, she’s in charge of SmartCityPHL, “a strategic initiative developing a comprehensive plan to guide investment and implementation of smart technology for government service innovation.”
The city is convening consultants, startups, corporate partners, universities and others to weigh in on that plan. And place-based nonprofits?
“So much of the work in [Smart Cities] is about understanding the various challenges in a community and identifying ways technology might support a better solution to addressing that challenge,” Hwang said. “As the City of Philadelphia continues to build its roadmap, we would look forward to connecting with the nonprofit community to help us prioritize what types of solutions are most important to them and partner with us on projects to implement in their communities.”
Dr. Ken Steif founded consulting org Urban Spatial to help governments, businesses and nonprofits address their challenges “at the intersection of data science and public policy.”
Urban Spatial, with the help of Steif’s University of Pennsylvania grad students, developed a foreclosure warning system project for community nonprofit Philadelphia Legal Assistance. The project used all open source code so other orgs can replicate it.
Rather than Smart Cities, “the real innovation we should care about is ‘civic technology,’” Steif said. “Philadelphians should know that their City has been an international leader in the use of civic technology for decades and that when deployed in concert with policy makers, community members, domain experts, designers and other stakeholders, these innovations can lead to a City that is more productive and inclusive.”
Whatever the term, these initiatives have the capacity to impact Philadelphians’ everyday lives — and could help nonprofit pros do their jobs better.
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