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Smarter Cities: Right Concept, Right Methodology

Smart Cities are a significant milestone in the history of metropolitan populations. Multi-faceted Smart City projects are driving substantial changes in production models, city management, and people’s lives. More government agencies, enterprises, social organizations, and citizens worldwide are engaging in Smart City planning and construction.

Although most Smart City projects have deployed industry-leading IT infrastructures or added more functionality to legacy eGovernment systems, they have failed to deliver a convenient, cost-effective, and intelligent user experience. One common reason is that project initiators do not approach planning or building Smart Cities from a people-oriented perspective. A second reason is that different government agencies have built information systems that do not connect or share their data.

To grow their capabilities, cities must eliminate these information barriers to provide more people-oriented public services. We propose a new methodology for Smart City construction that starts with an in-depth study of people’s needs and evolves into connecting a variety of inter-agency systems and components that enable the development of innovative products.

Meeting People’s Needs

Smart City users are people. So, the question is: How do we conduct such an in-depth study? To answer this, let’s consider sightseeing tours that are provided by many government agencies.

From a citizen’s perspective, the process of organizing sightseeing tours must include the following:

  • Access to promotional materials
  • Ability to make a reservation
  • Engagement
  • Interaction
  • Use of resources

If key resources are missing from the tour, the ‘citizens as customers’ may lose interest in the tour service because of unmet needs.

People’s Smart City needs can be summarized as shown in the figure on the right.

Smarter Cities: Right Concept, Right Methodology

People’s Smart City needs


Government agencies have built many large and complex public service systems. Traditionally, these structures have their own governance mechanisms, management processes, physical infrastructures, information systems, and personnel. Each may also work with other systems to offer more advanced ‘cross-agency’ services.

Due to continuous innovations in new technologies and services, people want to obtain services at a single ‘window’ rather than at different facilities located throughout a city. Fortunately, new ICT advances have made cost-effective, reliable ‘system interconnection’ a reality.

The top priority of Smart City projects is the comprehensive internal digitalization of each system and the atomization, configuration, and modularizing of service functions to build a solid foundation for the integration of innovative, city-wide services.

Cross-Border Innovation

Continuing with the sightseeing tour example, people can obtain tour information by query, reservation, consultation, and even ‘push messages’ from government agencies. Because the tour service information provided by these agencies has come from disparate sources of information, tourists may have difficulty obtaining a complete picture of the available tour packages.

After acquiring tour information, visitors must switch to another system for resource reservation and transport services, which can be a complex and time-consuming procedure. To better meet personalized needs, service providers must implement a comprehensive ‘information connection.’ A Smart City system must connect a variety of resources to offer suggestions that cover the entire process of activities. Using ‘cross-agency connections,’ city managers can develop innovative service capabilities that cannot be supplied by a single system.

China’s President Xi Jinping has called for a people-oriented approach to planning and building Chinese government services using advanced information technologies to modernize the country’s governance capabilities. One effective method to develop such an eGovernment platform is to build integrated online service solutions that create a national information sharing resource to help eliminate information barriers and facilitate decision making.

By Chen Hongyi

Managing Director, Health & Public Service, Accenture Greater China

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