Lucy Zodion recently commissioned research into attitudes and progress towards smart cities by local government officials in the UK, and some of the findings have raised concerns. The research has shown that unless fundamental changes are made, the UK risks being left behind as other countries surge ahead with smart city delivery.
An independent research agency, DJS Research, spoke to members of 187 councils across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; over 80% have no teams or individuals for smart city delivery and low awareness of smart initiatives, while many more were keen to develop smart solutions but had no means to do so.
There are a number of reasons for the lack of smart progress in some regions, and they are all interlinked. Funding was cited as a major barrier to smart initiatives: at a time when council budgets are stretched to capacity, allocating funds or resources to projects not deemed to be critical is an uphill struggle.
Another difficulty is the perceived lack of sustainable business cases for smart city projects – with the majority of live examples in pilot phase funded by competition or third parties, proof of return on investment can be hard to come by, making it difficult to convince senior council members to invest at all. Faced with tightening public purse strings, many have not yet found the sustainable business models to make the compelling case to gain funding and internal prioritisation to progress projects.
A lack of collaboration, attributed to the siloed nature of local governments, is another barrier to smart delivery; with different departments not sharing information or working together in the most efficient way.