Iterate to Improve has been a guiding principle for Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager of the City of San Jose, as he has navigated his city's smart city journey.
San Jose has a little over a million people in the heart of Silicon Valley and has developed a roadmap to be as “innovative as the Valley it serves”. Sifting through what is important, core and achievable has created a long list of opportunities and initiatives that were then prioritised based on their risk, effort and impact.
This has meant that the city has not necessarily focused on the “wicked problems” but instead delivered on the “simple things” building confidence and capability step-by-step to address more complex challenges. Putting data in between the city infrastructure and the citizens, building an Internet of Things (IoT) platform and adapting internal procurement processes to enable technology to be trialled have been key milestones on the journey.
San Jose's approach puts people at the centre of change and this is driving the roll out of a city wide broadband network making social justice and economic inequality the next wicked problems to be overcome.
The city government is but one of many collaborators in the San Jose innovation ecosystem. As a not-for-profit organisation, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) provides a strong voice for good planning and good government. The ongoing high growth in local jobs through the continual expansion of tech giants such as Google creates enormous pressure on housing, affordable housing and transportation. As an urban think tank SPUR’s research, education and advocacy bring a much-needed perspective to how these challenges can be addressed.
Similarly, the San Jose Downtown Association brings a business community perspective to the table. With over two thousand members and a budget of near $2.5 million the Association does more than simply keep the area clean, safe and beautiful. It’s Executive Director, Scott Knies, and his team have become the interpreters establishing a common language between the city and business to facilitate public domain improvements, assist public-private cooperation and navigate the corridors of city hall.
In the Valley, urban leadership comes in many forms united by the common goal of economic vitality and quality of life. For the past forty years the Silicon Valley Leadership Group have provided a place where all leaders can have a say and influence the shape of their region. Over lunch with 1,200 leaders it was evident that the private sector not only plays a critical role in technology infrastructure but in the much-needed social infrastructure of what makes a great city.
Tomorrow we venture to the City of San Diego and continue our quest for insights and knowledge on how technology and innovation can make a real difference to citizens. More to come from Mayor Faulconer and his team as we take a tour of this vibrant port city.
View photos from the day here