Civic engagement has always been at the core of every successful government. The ability for officials to communicate with and understand their people is absolutely critical. That’s something that will never change - something that’s been a reality of our society from the days of tribal chiefs through to modern municipal governments.

And today, we stand on the precipice of the greatest change yet. Something that will shake the very foundation of what it means for a municipal government to connect and communicate with its people. I’m speaking, of course, about the Internet of Things.

Cue groans and disinterested sighs from the audience. Chances are you’ve already heard about the Internet of Things through just about every media outlet on the web. People have been talking up the power of a hyperconnected world - the power of smart cities - for years.

By now, it’s safe to say you’re probably sick of hearing about it. But bear with me. Because if you’re involved in the public sector at any level of government, be it municipal, state, or federal, the Internet of Things is something you should be very excited about.

Imagine, if you will, a city where the government knows instantly which roads need repair, or which street lights have burnt out. A city where impending natural disasters like floods or storms are detected well in advance of their arrival, allowing potential victims to be evacuated before they’re put at risk. A city where public transit is an exact science, and residents know exactly where a particular bus or train is at any given time.

These are just a few of the ways integrated sensor technology, empowered by public broadband, stands to improve how your city operates and engages with its people. And they’re just the beginning, too. Per a 2015 media release by analyst firm IDC, there are multiple levels to civic engagement where IoT is concerned - and as your own city moves along them towards maturity, its citizen experience becomes exponentially better.

Lower taxes. Increased tourism and a more attractive economy for businesses. More extensive, quantifiable data about how citizens are interacting with public works projects, and analytics to determine how those projects might be improved.

A government that doesn’t simply talk at its citizens, but instead engages and communicates with them in meaningful ways, through the channels they use most - and in so doing, displays a deep understanding of their wants and needs.

Sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it? So how does your own city get from where it currently stands to this seemingly-utopian level of engagement? The first step is to lay the foundation.

What I mean is that you need to initiate a municipal broadband project. Without public, readily-available fiber and wireless Internet, the city of the future is very much a pipe dream. Connected technology needs a reliable, high-traffic public network to function.

Once you’ve achieved that (no mean task in and of itself), your next step is to look inwards. Employ software platforms that allow you to automate whatever tasks you can, and start implementing training programs that allow government officials and public sector employees to engage with new technology. Only once you’ve effectively digitized your own agencies should you begin looking to ‘smarten up’ the city itself.

That’s your last step. Installing IoT technology throughout the city that gives you total visibility into public infrastructure. From there, you can simply focus on optimizing everything for the best citizen experience possible.

The city of the future is about more than a few sensor nodes or self-driving cars. It’s about a municipal government that’s more intelligent, more efficient, and more engaged than ever before in improving the lives of its citizens. It’s about a populace that loves where they live, because things get better with each passing day.

In short, it’s about better civic engagement across the board - and I think that’s an idea we can all get behind.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Dean Madison is the president of TD Madison & Associates. The company is founded on the principle of providing a more predictable approach for evaluating the culture, strategic fit and qualifications of potential candidates for key senior level positions within the cable and telecom industries.

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