What Does It Take to Build a Smart Community?

With a strong GIS platform, you can begin building a smart community today.
The term smart city has been gaining quite a bit of attention lately. Known by many names—livable communities, sustainable cities, resilient cities, and even smart nation or subsets like safe cities, healthy communities, and coastal resilience—the objectives are fairly similar, that is, to build a government that is more responsive, productive, efficient, transparent, and more engaging with its citizens. At Esri, we have opted to embrace two terms: smart communities and resilient communities. Building smart communities reflects national, state, regional, and local governments’ desire to improve quality of life. Building resilient communities relates to assisting governments in preparing for and recovering from man-made and natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, economic collapse, or climate change.
There are a lot of “smart approaches” out there claiming to meet the needs of building a next-generation smart community. However, most approaches seek to only support large metropolitan areas or are focused on a single problem. After years of working in partnership with thousands of governments around the world and asking how we can really help, a clear path has emerged.
This approach will support governments regardless of size or geography. It delivers solutions that cover more disciplines across a government as a means of strengthening the entire government operations. Think of government as a platform. At its core, building smart communities involves working side by side with governments and professional trade associations to truly understand government needs.
There are four steps in creating a successful strategy to support smart communities:
1. Start with a world-class geographic information system (GIS) platform. The primary reason governments the world over have embraced GIS is that location is the most common denominator looked at when addressing a problem. The solution needs to serve GIS professionals, the professional that simply uses GIS, field-workers, decision makers, and citizens. It also needs to support the five major government workflows: collecting data, analyzing and performing what-if scenarios against the information, improving operational awareness, improving field operations, and enabling civic engagement.
2. Develop a location strategy that allows governments to prioritize the GIS applications they need. This needs assessment indicates a government’s readiness to incorporate new solutions and at what rate. The government can begin with analyzing the entire organization’s issues department by department or it can tackle a single department, such as law enforcement or health, to meet goals of more limited scope such as smart infrastructure, smart buildings, healthy communities, or safe cities.
3. Deliver real solutions that serve government priorities. Governments know that their biggest challenges are often improving infrastructure, efficiency and productivity, and local economic conditions as well delivering green solutions. They hear regularly from or are polling businesses and citizens on what their priorities are. They do not always have the quickest answer as to how to solve these issues.
We have found that working side by side with governments and asking What apps do you wish technology companies would build? results in the development and delivery of apps that successfully meet their needs. These apps are honed by working directly with governments on design and testing. Once completed and tested, the solutions are extended back to governments at no charge. These apps can be deployed immediately and tailored over time.
4. Develop strong relationships with business partners. Partners can deliver sophisticated solutions for permitting, crime analysis, asset management, and climate analysis, for example, that are built on top of a strong GIS platform. They can extend customized solutions that scale with a state, municipal, or regional government over time.
To see the results of this approach, explore these smart community offerings at, and begin building a smart community today.

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