How coordinated is the effort?
Christopher Hawkes, a senior director at Publicis Sapient in Zürich, Switzerland, ranked two on the IMD list, advises commodities and financial firms on digitally transforming their businesses. He said there’s an underlying question behind the digital transformation of cities: does it simply happen spontaneously, in which different organizations are driving change individually in silos, or is it part of a coordinated strategy and unified drive that encourages different businesses and organizations to digitalize?
Hawkes argued for the latter. He said ideally a centralized body with authority over various sectors, whether at a national or local level, would set key objectives.
“It’s very difficult for a single city to say, ‘We’re going to digitalize transportation,’ if that doesn’t fit with the state or national body’s agenda,” Hawkes said. “The more digital strategy can become part of the single overarching strategy and therefore a single, unified drive, the more likely it is to be successful.”
Antonia Maedel, manager of program management at Publicis Sapient, also based in Zürich, said to reach this goal governments or regulatory bodies should be involved in outlining an overall strategy.
“Looking at various initiatives across the EU it becomes clear that a high level of coordination can help motivate decision makers in cities to go further,” Maedel said.
“This in turn motivates industry leaders to also invest in these initiatives – given that it is expected that 70 percent of the global population will be living in urban areas, focusing on the needs and expectations of these people is also a significant economic opportunity.”
According to Maedel and Hawkes, it’s highly unlikely that cities will “smarten up” as the consequence of government mandate or private innovation alone. There’s a much higher chance of success, they said, if communities have a sense of common purpose: a coordinated effort toward digital innovation with a shared vision for future possibilities across various sectors and an ever-evolving blueprint for what’s next.