Those who are great at what they do get there by copying those who came before them, sharing ideas with contemporaries, or — even better — just stealing them. The Council of Global City CIOs, announced by its member cities on Sept. 12, is the latest embodiment of that principle.
The tech leaders of Chicago; New York City; the Hague, Netherlands; Dubai; Boston; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., are the founding participants of the group, which was created to build a body of resources and share it with city leaders of the world.
Three initial areas of focus outlined by the group include the development of a model for creating a smart city, a plan for connecting everyone with broadband access, and to serve as a platform for open-source code sharing. To share code, the group teamed with GitHub, which created a repository that will allow city CIOs to contribute and consume source code for civic software. For the rest, the group's participants will meet in two weeks to establish the details, explained San Francisco CIO Miguel Gamiño.
"We found that, around the world, we're all faced with very similar challenges," Gamiño told Government Technology. "This concept of creating a smarter city is a global one, and in some cases there are other parts of the world where they're doing certain things better than we are and vice versa. And I think there's a lot to be shared globally around common objectives, and different levels of accomplishment and priority in these different areas, so when you add them all up it's just a better collective sum."
The Council, which will be co-led by Gamiño and Washington, D.C., Chief Technology Officer Archana Vemulapalli, enables a formal process for information sharing and partnership that encourages participation, Gamiño explained, and then referenced Los Angeles' upcoming launch of a business portal that was created using code supplied by San Francisco's own business portal.
Gamiño also noted that the group itself has existed in an informal fashion since 2014 when he partnered with Barcelona's tech leadership. But now, the scope of this Council of Global City CIOs (the world) and the support from its founders (who are among the nation's most innovative public CIOs) create a more stable community than those ad hoc agreements and relationships that typically accrue in this space.
The group will share challenges and solutions, but that will be but a marginal component of what they do, Gamiño said, because there are already groups that do that. This group will be all about sharing things — frameworks, principles, policies and code — that city leaders can use to make things happen.
"I would really like the organization tasked with work," he said. "… On the smart city front, I'd like to see some cities come together and agree on a set frameworks and terms and standards that can deliver something tangible to help other cities, members or not, give them some guardrails to help direct them toward that smarter city path."
The official announcement from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee emphasized the importance of the world working together and harnessing the immense power of technology to improve city life.
"Just think about how much opportunity is left to be leveraged," the two wrote. "According to a recent estimate of big data, every day we create more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in just the last two years. Frankly, there is now and will continue to be more data being produced than we have ideas about how it can and should be used by cities to improve lives."
And the group is looking for new members around the world, Gamiño said, so if someone wants to get involved, all they have to do is contact the group and start helping.
"This is a matter of organizing around a focused set of people around the world that I think have maybe the biggest opportunity to impact the world in the short term," Gamiño said, "because at the end of the day, people might be citizens of a country, but they're residents of a community, of a city, and so people who work at that level have the opportunity to deliver solutions to the heart of the constituency."
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.