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Study: Information Sharing Key to Smarter Cities

CTG UAlbany explores successful Smart City initiatives undertaken by New York and Mexico City

CTG UAlbany's analysis of smart city initiatives finds that big cities that want to get ‘smarter’ need strong executive leadership and must effectively share more information across departments.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 27, 2019) — Big cities that want to get ‘smarter’ need strong executive leadership and must effectively share more information across departments according to researchers at the University at Albany.

CTG UAlbany Research Director J. Ramon Gil-Garcia and Director Theresa A. Pardo shared this conclusion in “Information Sharing as a Dimension of Smartness: Understanding Benefits and Challenges in Two Megacities,” recently published in Urban Affairs Review.

University at Albany Information Science doctoral student Manuel De Tuya is a co-author on the paper.

“Information and communication technologies enable new organizational structures in city governments and new innovative problem-solving capabilities,” said Gil-Garcia. “Many initiatives seek to integrate services and, as a consequence, rely heavily on city government agencies and departments to develop, and sustain, high levels of capability to share information across organizational boundaries.”

While information sharing has been an important topic for researchers over the past two decades, CTG UAlbany found that little is known about how specific strategies and capabilities can be applied to urban settings, particularly megacities with populations in excess of 10 million people.

Researchers focused on two cases — New York’s 311 city information system and Mexico City’s Red Angel system of integrated social services — since both rely on information sharing among municipal departments and agencies, and both were characterized as "smart city" initiatives by government officials.

According to Gil-Garcia, Pardo and DeTuya, big cities executing these kinds of programs have unique financial, personnel and technical advantages compared to state, city and other local governments.

“These factors may help to explain the relative success of megacities in terms of information sharing projects because some of the typical technical and financial challenges are simply not as extreme and in many cases, not present,” said Gil-Garcia.

City leadership also plays a pivotal role in information sharing and program success. In both Mexico City and New York, mayors were highly involved in building the organizational and policy infrastructures necessary to support information sharing among city agencies.

“Mayors can engender more managerial flexibility leading to fewer challenges to efforts to modify rules and organizational structures,” said Pardo.

The researchers pointed out that more work is needed to determine if these findings hold in smaller, resource-constrained cities and towns.

“Future research could explore the nature of information sharing challenges in cities of different sizes and with different characteristics, in particular, where there is lack of financial resources and technical skills,” said DeTuya.

The work was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Université Laval, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, UAlbany, University of Washington, United Nations University and Fudan University.

Urban Affairs Review is a peer-reviewed, bi-monthly journal focused on questions of politics, governance, and public policy specifically as they relate to cities and/or regions.

CTG UAlbany, formerly called the Center for Technology in Government, focuses on transforming public service through innovations in management, policy and technology.

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