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The Biden Administration Could Be Good for Smart Cities

During a tech-focused talk with the National League of Cities Friday, President-elect Joe Biden promised to be supportive of urban leaders once in office, echoing a general friendliness toward local government thus far.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia.
Shutterstock/Matt Smith Photographer
Many have wondered just how the incoming presidential administration plans to help advance urban tech initiatives.

This week, during a National League of Cities conference, Joe Biden signaled that he would pursue a supportive relationship with urban leaders, telling officials "my administration will have your back." Friday's talk, part of the 2020 NLC City Summit, focused on a number of themes including innovation and equity, and also coincided with NLC's release of several new reports on tech topics like urban micro-mobility.  

In general, Biden's campaign rhetoric has tended to signal good things for urban tech initiatives. The president-elect has promised to "encourage innovation and launch smarter cities" — with a particular eye on transportation.

"Transportation patterns are changing across the country," reads the president-elect's website. "New modes of car ownership, the explosive growth of ride-hailing and ride-sharing services, and the rapid adoption of electric scooters and bike-share programs are giving Americans new ways to move. But the biggest disruption lies ahead: self-driving cars. Citizens will benefit if cities can adapt to those new technologies."

At the same time, Biden has also suggested investing in innovative water system management technologies — proffering the creation of a "modern, sustainable infrastructure" that is built off of "equitable clean energy." Much of this agenda has been driven by Biden's environmental platform — which sees transforming the nation's transportation systems as the key to reducing carbon emissions.  

In his talk Friday, Biden hinted at increased federal funding to deal with the many crises cities have been saddled with this year.

"You're not getting the support you need," he said, taking a swipe at the Trump administration and promising to do a better job of supporting cities' critical services staff. "To be able to keep paying your teachers, your police officers, your firefighters, your first responders."

While it remains to be seen whether the new president can make good on his campaign promises, Biden's inclusion of smart city rhetoric into his platform points to a friendly relationship with urban tech. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.