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Reducing traffic congestion, monitoring critical infrastructure, preserving natural resources and strengthening public safety aren’t just priorities for community leaders in the U.S. — they’re fundamental concerns that are being addressed across the globe. As part of our international issue
, we looked worldwide at how governments are using technology to confront these challenges.
Population growth, particularly in developing regions, will continue to stress resources locally and internationally, putting a premium on smarter use of water, oil and other valuable assets. In developed nations, aging populations will stress health and social welfare systems, demanding more efficiency and effectiveness from government programs. And everywhere, citizens expect public agencies to reliably deliver services that range from filling potholes to responding to disaster.
From e-procurement to advanced smart grids, this roundup of public-sector deployments offers a global look at technology-powered problem solving.
Use our interactive map above to read up on these jurisdictions, or read the list of them detailed below.
1. Edmonton, Alberta
Edmonton became Canada’s first city to adopt Google Apps for its entire workforce of 9,000 employees in April 2012. The implementation made a real difference for government communications: It was estimated that about 3,000 staff members who work remotely lacked an Edmonton email account prior to the rollout.
2. Rio de Janeiro
The number of smartphones in use in Brazil now easily outnumbers the country’s total population. Host of this year’s World Cup final and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the city is preparing for the onslaught: QR codes linked to tourist information were built into the mosaic walkways that line Brazil’s picturesque beaches. In addition, both Cisco and Microsoft are constructing tech centers in capital city Rio de Janeiro, with plans to invest $500 million and $100 million, respectively.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Ministry of Environment and Public Space in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is responsible for about 700,000 highly visible assets, including roads, sidewalks, drains, lights and trees. Lack of transparency and coordination left the city with claim backlogs spanning several months. A series of SAP-powered dashboards now allow real-time analysis of contracts, budgets and schedules, electronically. The ministry reports that productivity has doubled over the previous paper-based system.
A national e-procurement program in Scotland boasts 75,000 federal government and school system users, who together purchase goods and services from more than 90,000 vendors. The Amazon-style approach from Elcom allows online purchasing in three clicks, and has reportedly saved the government nearly $1.5 billion. The government also will incorporate historical purchasing data into decision-making and ramp up electronic invoicing to streamline relations with small and medium-sized suppliers.
The Netherlands’ Digital Delta project, launched last year, uses data from disparate sources to help manage water and improve flood control. The IBM-led project is driven by a foreboding number: 55 percent of the country’s population lives in areas prone to large-scale flooding. The new system will address concerns about drinking water quality and the impacts of extreme weather events.
By aligning road demand with supply, IBM helped Stockholm, Sweden, reduce traffic congestion and pollution even as the number of people and vehicles increases. Roadside control points charge vehicles different toll rates depending on the time, with optical character recognition software identifying license plates. Launched in 2007, it was reported in 2009 that traffic and vehicle emissions in Stockholm were both reduced by up to 18 percent.
The only country in the world successfully conducting elections online, the small country of about 1.3 million uses a simple system of personal ID codes across all official transactions, from banking to health care, to passports and other government documents. Early adoption of digital signatures using a public key infrastructure standard makes digital signatures equal to paper ones in the eyes of the law.
8. Issy-les-Moulineaux, France
In the French town of Issy-les-Moulineaux, a smart-grid demonstration project, called IssyGrid, collects energy consumption data for homes and commercial buildings, processing the information in real time using Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform. Residents and building owners can view the findings, and more importantly, they have been acting on the data, reducing their energy consumption by up to 20 percent. The program launched in early 2012 with about 200 homes. It was announced last year that an additional 1,600 homes would be joining, with the ultimate goal to connect the whole town.
9. Barcelona, Spain
Aiming to become an example of sustainable urban development, Barcelona, Spain’s citywide network of Wi-Fi and sensors allows for environmental management. Besides tracking the weather, the system monitors the flow of people, water and waste, parking, noise and traffic. As a Cisco Smart+Connected Community, Barcelona seeks to use tech to make people’s everyday lives easier and improve the efficiency of government functions.
Cotral SpA provides bus service to 100 million passengers in 376 Italian cities, including Rome. An info-mobility portal from Oracle uses real-time data from vehicle sensors to inform riders about routes and schedules, while linking to external data like weather forecasts. Tracking information, combined with highway sensors and video feeds, also alerts staff to maintenance needs, which helps keep the fleet operating at peak efficiency.
11. Saudi Arabia
Orange Business Services is working with the Rayadah Investment Co. to develop two digital neighborhoods in Saudi Arabia, which in addition to telecom services like fiber and VoIP, will also have smart buildings and metering. A full-scale pilot with 25,000 participants is planned to test possible electrical systems of the future and to determine the effectiveness of solutions for managing energy consumption.
12. Pune, India
Rapid population growth in Pune, India, was causing some unwelcome environmental issues, so in order to help stay “clean and green,” the city built a tree census app on the SAP platform. The app helps Pune keep tabs on the urban forest, enabling transparent decision-making. Photos, tree measurements, precise location and scientific names are captured and layered over a GIS map to enable effective urban planning.
A one-year Safe City pilot in Singapore incorporates analytics software from Accenture into the city-state’s extensive video monitoring network. Aimed at enhancing public safety using computer vision and predictive tools, the system will help authorities monitor traffic, crowds and environmental threats and respond more quickly. Led by the Singapore Safety and Security Industry Programme Office, Singapore officials hope the test holds lessons for their nation and beyond.
14. Qingdao, China
A bustling seaport of about 3.5 million citizens, Qingdao has the first cloud-based e-government platform in China built by EMC. Officials were drawn to the flexibility and scalability of cloud hosting, as well as its disaster recovery advantages. Qingdao’s “active-active” data center setup means backup is up and running almost instantly. New resources for city departments can be deployed within minutes, rather than hours, as in their previous environment.
15. Victoria, Australia
The Vote Victoria iPhone app supports mandatory voting requirements for citizens of Victoria, Australia. Working with the Victorian Electoral Commission and state Web managers, the app from Deloitte points voters to the closest voting centers and provides a live election results feed. Since replicated in many other Australian jurisdictions, the project’s primary goals are to engage younger voters and make voting information available to voters living abroad.
16. Tasmania, Australia
The Department of Health and Human Services in Tasmania, Australia, now has an electronic version of the static patient status board. The Web-based Clinical Information Portal offers anytime, anywhere access to patient data, customizable based on user needs. Developed by Deloitte with plenty of clinician input, touchscreen monitors adorn hospital walls and community nurses can access the system from the field.
17. Auckland, New Zealand
Predicting that its population of 1.4 million people will double by 2040, Auckland, New Zealand, is preparing its transportation network to handle the increase. Auckland Transport worked with Microsoft to consolidate and standardize its IT infrastructure, and then developed public-facing Web apps for services like reporting potholes, accessing real-time bus schedules and refilling ticket cards. Internally the department enlisted mobile devices running Microsoft Office 365 to improve productivity and cross-agency collaboration.