Kansas City has deemed itself the world’s most connected smart city — a moniker it deserves. In August of last year, I visited the city for the Gigabit City Summit, hosted by KC Digital Drive. I was blown away at the progress it had made on smart city projects.
The results speak for themselves. Whether it’s the KC Streetcar or the Living Lab smart city development workshop, the private and public sectors are dedicated to improving everyday experiences for residents. And by investing in connected technology, transit and high-speed broadband, the city has generated almost $2 billion in economic improvements.
Since that initial visit, I have shared how this Midwestern city is one of the top performers in the country when it comes to smart city innovation. So what can Kansas City teach leaders in the other 20,000 cities across the nation? Here are the two big lessons.
▪ First, prioritize investment in your city’s digital infrastructure. Kansas City was well ahead of the curve when it decided to encourage private sector companies to build out the city’s mobile broadband infrastructure. Creating a welcoming permitting and regulatory environment and a fair competitive process were critical steps. As a result, there are now 29 companies providing internet service to residents and businesses.
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A majority of smart city innovation rests on the network, which ensures these revolutionary technologies can be supported and powered. It’s critical to streamline processes at City Hall that can enable continued build out and ensure Kansas City remains one of the smartest metropolitan areas.
▪ Second, city leaders must continue to encourage public and private sectors stakeholders to work together. In Kansas City, large corporations, nimble startups, community advocates and government all find a way to collaborate in order to move big projects forward .
This willingness and collaborative mindset is a beacon to other tech and business leaders who scan the country in search of communities that are open to new ideas and economic opportunity. The cities that enable and work with the private sector on projects large and small are the ones that will continue to reap the benefits of a smarter city for their constituents.
Kansas City has clearly scored some wins in the smart technology arena. So, it’s no surprise that now, the city is rightfully wondering: “what’s next?” At this crossroads, City Manager Troy Schulte is ahead of the issue, rallying the community for input to better inform the city’s smart city strategy. Next, they will produce a document that will serve as a guide for future leadership. This is exactly the kind of process and thinking that will set the city up for success yet again.
This city has a bright future, but the journey isn’t over yet. My hope is that elected officials continue to pursue public-private partnerships and ensure the coming iterations of Kansas City’s next big push into the future.
Chelsea Collier is the founder of Digi.City, a platform designed to discuss the policy behind deploying and supporting smart city technology. Digi.City is partnering with KC Digital Drive to host a day-long roundtable to discuss the policy implications of smart city technologies on Friday, Feb. 16 at PlexPod Westport Commons.