Can cities be modeled as platforms? This guest post shows how.
Note: This is a guest post by Barbara Thornton. Barbara attended my lecture at Harvard Business School in July and has been applying principles of Platform Thinking to her work with cities and municipalities.
This post leverages the Magnet – Tools & Rules – Data framework that I first alluded to in my Harvard Business Review article here and have since expanded over the course of my lectures and workshops. More on that coming in the subsequent posts. In this post, Barbara uses this Platform Thinking framework to layout a structure for thinking of the smart-city-as-a-platform.
Municipalities are beginning to go digital, both for internal workflow processes and for new ways to engage with their citizens. Since municipalities first started investing in computers in the late 1960’s, cities relied on computers to crunch large amounts of data on taxes, road repair costs, etc. and spit out paper reports for managers to interpret. Cities have traditionally created islands of software that fail to communicate with each other. Police departments had one kind of software. Libraries had another.
Today, instead of separate islands of software that don’t communicate, cities must imagine a platform that supports and interconnects all the digital functionality the city needs to serve internal operating requirements and to engage with citizens. To make the right choices about designing such a platform, cities will need to apply Platform Thinking, starting with an overview of what they have, where they want to go and what they need to get there.
Here are the top ten rules for municipalities who are considering a major investment in their software infrastructure.
The ultimate goal of a new, 21st century city-as-a-platform is that it can operate a virtuous feedback loop where the suppliers of information feed the needed data to the users of information and that those users have an opportunity to interact with the data in ways that will refresh and reshape the supply of data that is provided so that new data sources and software tools evolve to meet new user needs.
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