Smart cities, smart budgets: saving governments money through technology
We live in a day and age where technology is ubiquitous. It blends flawlessly with so many aspects of our everyday lives, including how we interact with our local governments. Smart city technology is designed to make our lives easier and better but the cost of improving municipal systems can be substantial. For example, the US government has budgeted $65 billion (USD) on IT for the 2023 fiscal year. With such hefty price tags, it’s understandable that municipalities can be reluctant to implement smart city tech. However, instead of focusing on the expenditure, what if we focused on how technology can save governments money in the long run? The cost savings indicate a promising future for our municipalities, who should be encouraged to deploy innovative solutions to continually benefit and enhance the lives of their citizens.
Increased efficiency: technology can save everyone time and money
By delivering more and more city services via the cloud, municipalities are able to save valuable resources for both the government and its citizens. Below are just a few examples of how smart city innovation can lead to increased efficiency:
Online utility payments
People’s lives are so busy these days that the ability to make a payment quickly and securely online has become such a normal part of everyday life that the population expects. On the citizen side, people save a large amount of wasted time and also any expenses spent on physically travelling to City Hall. To take things one step further, automated credit card payments that get processed every billing cycle render this process even more efficient and desirable for constituents. The benefits of off-site cloud payments also extend to the municipality, allowing cities to save important tax-payer dollars on human resources and physical materials traditionally used for account billing. The ability to automate this process reduces the amount of administrative hours spent on simple tasks. This increased efficiency allows city staff members to then focus on handling more challenging requests that must be addressed by a person.
Smart transportation apps not only allow commuters to be able to purchase tickets at the click of a button, this technology can also provide up-to-date information on the quickest public transit routes or the level of congestion on various buses and trains. While the citizen is able to save time and money by using the app, the data that is collected by the city through this system can also be used to determine where future budgets for this service can be best directed. For example, if a high level of congestion is being reported on a particular bus route, the city can then direct more frequent bus services to this particular locale.
In addition to making public transit commutes more efficient, smart transportation also gives cities the power to gain important driver insights. For example, vehicles that are connected by apps allow drivers to easily report on road conditions. This important data means that cities can perform scheduled maintenance that saves time and money. Being alerted of poor quality road conditions in advance lets governments get ahead of potential road damage before it occurs, preventing unplanned road closures that can result in many overtime hours and also be very costly.
IoT-enabled road signage
Drivers can now make more informed decisions about the best travel routes thanks to IoT-enabled road signage, which saves on fuel costs while also cutting down on emissions from unnecessary travel and traffic congestion. Before the advent of such technology, both the municipality and the public had to rely on the radio or other relatively-inefficient means of informing the public on such matters. This digital signage can also alert drivers to adverse conditions or road hazards, preventing accidents which also reduces the need for the city to deploy first-responders to emergency situations. This type of smart city technology has enabled a level of foresight and planning that can truly make a positive impact on budgets, the environment, and citizen lives.
Smart city technology creates smarter revenue opportunities for governments
In addition to the cost savings that result from municipal innovation, there is also strong potential for revenue generation that can add much-welcomed dollars to city budgets. Technology facilitates new opportunities for income such as:
- Online service fees for utility payments, which can generate sizable revenue even from modestly-sized populations.
- Parking enforcement software that allows officers to issue tickets remotely.
- Smart kiosks and digital public signage that display advertisements to the community. Sales of advertising space in high-traffic areas can be incredibly lucrative for municipalities.
- Citizen usage of online services, as well as other applications such as parking kiosks, creates the potential for valuable data collection that can then be sold to third-parties. (Although this practice of selling data comes with its own set of ethical and legal challenges, it is becoming more and more commonplace as a source of revenue for both public and private stakeholders.)
Smart city technologies can easily provide measurable results to justify government spending
Fortunately, data from smart city tech can easily be extracted and analyzed to measure performance and effectiveness. This is essential, as understanding what’s currently working allows governments to deliver cost-effective public service solutions to citizens. Assessing ongoing performance also allows for future budgetary considerations to be made based on solid evidence and predictable patterns, rather than the gut feelings of decision makers.
Governments are constantly under immense pressure to spend tax-payer dollars wisely. Smart city data ultimately enhances accountability and helps citizens monitor how governments deliver on their commitments.