Smart city projects have plenty of on-paper advantages, but city leaders are keen to remain in the good books of residents — and broken promises, lack of city funds, and failed projects don’t make a good resume.
It’s part of the reason we aren’t seeing much smart city investment outside of hubs like San Francisco, New York City, and Austin, Texas, where city planners can afford to spend a few million on projects.
U.S. lawmakers want that to change and are looking to create a bill that gives city planners more smart city legroom, hopefully inspiring city leaders to embark on missions to revive their city centers.
Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene has said she and a team of like-minded individuals are working on a bill to improve pilot programs for cities, encouraging public and private investment and reducing the hardships for city leaders that fail to achieve the project goals.
“We have draft legislation as well on smart communities that we are working on in conjunction with folks in the Senate so that we have grant programs and understand pilot programs so we get best practices” said DelBene at an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Lawmakers building on recent smart city successes
The success of the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, where the government awarded the winning city $40 million and Paul Allen’s investment firm Vulcan gave an additional $10 million, may lead to more federal funding and grants for smart city projects.
Even though Columbus, Ohio was declared the winning city, city leaders in Denver, Colorado, Portland, Orlando and San Francisco were surprised by the level of private sector interest in smart city projects and the enthusiasm from the public for new upgrades to the city.
Some of the city leaders even called for the projects to continue regardless of the result, receiving enough private sector funding to start building smart systems.
DelBene sees this as an opportunity to push smart city projects even further, by ensuring that regardless of private sector investment, the government will be there to back projects and offer advice.