To become “Future Ready,” city governments must focus on fostering and leveraging technological innovation in their local area, according to experts at an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) panel on Monday.

“Cities that are embracing future ready, we notice that they are data-driven,” said Christy McFarland, research director for the National League of Cities. She explained that such cities are increasing their numbers of chief technology officers and chief data officers, as well as placing an emphasis on performance management through data. This approach enables them to set goals for city improvement and monitor progress toward those goals.

“Some cities are advancing the use of data and technology and information through performance management systems to also begin to use predictive analytics,” McFarland said, noting that this tool is used in areas such as predictive policing and knowing where infrastructure repairs are needed.

“There are a lot of challenges that get in the way of that happening,” she added, saying that the culture and security structure in government has to change in order to accommodate a data-driven city.

While including data and innovation in government operations is important, the panelists also talked about the need for city governments to encourage private innovation locally.

“Governments have a role to play, especially in a time of change,” said Amit Midha, president of the Asia Pacific and Japan Region at Dell. He added that his company had found four focus areas in which governments could create future-ready cities: fostering innovation, preserving public trust in technological tools, enabling social responsibility, and fostering open markets.

“In order to attract talent to a city, in order to attract businesses, people want to know that their city government is functioning in a way that is going to be conducive to and not get in the way of succeeding,” said McFarland.

“There’s an opportunity for cities to model for the rest of the country how they interact with innovators,” said Michael Hendrix, senior director for Emerging Issues and Research at the U.S. Chamber Foundation. His foundation found that there were six indicators of an innovative and successful city: talent, capital, specialization, density, connectivity, and culture.

“A city can also have small amounts of these things and still stand toe-to-toe with the big boys,” Hendrix said. By the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s evaluation, Boston was the most successful city in innovation, due in large part to the fact that it had a more connected environment than traditional powerhouses such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“You don’t have to be a city that’s well known to be competitive,” agreed Megha Mukim, economist and Competitive Cities team leader at the World Bank Group.

“Becoming future ready is not just a company responsibility,” said Midha. “It’s also an individual responsibility; it’s also a city responsibility.”

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