For the past six months, I’ve been studying Smart City approaches in the United States and China, as part of a Zhi-Xing China Eisenhower Fellowship. As part of my research, I often look to other cities around the world that are leading this new wave of civic innovation.
What a joy to see one of the most progressive perspectives on Smart Cities right here in Central Texas. Three cheers for Mayor Ivy Taylor for a level of foresight that goes beyond the easy headlines that gain quick applause.
In her recent opinion, she outlined the San Antonio approach which rightly focuses on the fundamentals instead of the shiny “gadgets and gizmos.” A recent MIT paper titled “The development of smart cities in China” outlines four layers to a Smart City: Network > Platform > Sensor > Application – an approach echoed in the mayor’s vision. It’s forward thinking to prioritize foundational elements like robust high-speed Internet, whether through broadband, wireless infrastructure, or small cell solutions.
San Antonio’s approach to partnership is another distinguishing characteristic. The City of San Antonio’s Office of Innovation is taking the leadership position by convening a group of public, private, and nonprofit groups. This should come at no surprise. It was San Antonio that created SA2020, one of the best examples I’ve seen of civic planning that emphasizes citizen engagement. It was San Antonio that launched TechBloc, the city’s response to overreaching sharing-economy regulations.
San Antonio rallies and responds with a spirit of inclusion and efficiency. I am thrilled to be able to point to this thoughtful approach to Smart Cities as a model for cities across Texas and across the U.S.
Taylor summarizes this perfectly: “We can’t wait for the future to happen. Working together, working smarter, we will shape it ourselves.”
Top image: San Antonio’s downtown skyline, looking southeast from the top of the Weston Centre. Photo by Kara Gomez.