3 Ways Cities are Innovating with Technology

Cities across the United States have started to work smarter—not harder—when it comes to improving their technological infrastructure. From free public wi-fi in big cities, to high speed internet in rural areas, and a general push toward financial data transparency, many cities are finding ways to use technology to innovate within their communities.

Free Public Wi-Fi

Coastal hubs like New York City and San Francisco paved the way for free public wi-fi. However, some landlocked cities have caught up and become hubs in their own right. Kansas City, for example, began by installing wi-fi hotspots across 54 square blocks of downtown in 2015. The city has continued to build their infrastructure around that development, with plans to expand wi-fi access to streetcars and along city bus routes. It’s a big commitment to overhaul an entire city’s infrastructure. But Kansas City’s push to become one of the “smartest” cities in the US is just a small part of a larger goal to ultimately improve the lives of its residents overall.

Rural High Speed Internet

According to the FCC, nearly 14.5 million people in rural America have no access to threshold broadband internet speeds. While larger cities research the feasibility of providing high-speed municipal broadband for all residents, smaller cities like Bandera, Texas are finding clever ways to bring their communities into the 21st century. Public officials have started to work with contractors in local electrical co-ops to run fiberoptic cables like powerlines, hoping to increase broadband access across the county for its 30,000 residents in three years. It’s a bold move to be sure, but Bandera opted to think outside the box and look to its past to ensure its future—using a similar approach with broadband as it employed with electricity almost a century ago.

Financial Data Transparency

One of the best things local governments can do is be open with their citizens about how tax revenue is spent. Pushes toward financial data transparency have caused many cities (and counties) to adopt web tools (like BMS’s PublicView) that place budget information at their citizens’ fingertips. In turn, businesses have been stepping up to create and offer these services at competitive prices, resulting in a rare win-win-win for business, the government, and the public.

As technology improves, it’s imperative that cities adapt and evolve along with it. Free wi-fi, rural broadband, and financial data transparency are just a few points on the tip of an iceberg. Getting started is half the battle, but implementing these sorts of solutions slowly and early can help ensure that cities of all shapes and sizes can provide what their residents need, when they need it, well into the future.

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