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Can you crowdsource smarter cities?

Getting a city to communicate is a complex job.
via Flickr
Getting a city to communicate is a complex job.

Yesterday was the last day to submit to the Smarter Cities blog challenge, a partnership between tech company IBM and city-living afficianado , Next American City magazine. The project collected top examples of the use of  technology and information-gathering to improve urban life. 

However, the project seems to have hit the roadblock faced by many crowdsourcing projects: getting people to buy in.

A lot of the content has come from, surprise surprise, IBM and Next American City  (highlights: a peek into the fast and easy world of putting data the city already collects online, i.e. DMV wait times).

The Innovation Trail checked in with Jack Mason of IBM who curates reader contributions. He sent us to two projects modelling "the kind of local innovation and engagement that exemplifies a smarter city, large or small."

They are:

  1. speakupaustin.org, a portal designed to solicit community input on everything from ordinance changes to the future of the city's public media.
  2. The many contributions of the people behind #lovelansing: a group of committed community activists determined to highlight what's going on in Lansing, Michigan.

But part of the reason the Lansing folks have been able to shall we say, stack the deck, is that the Smarter Cities challenge didn't get a whole lot of responses.
A lot of great ideas compete for time and attention, but the humble takeaway from this project (and particularly #lovelansing) may be that community buy-in and effective recruitment, rather than technology, may be key to a project's success.

Binghamton-birthed IBM has entered into the ring of companies developing tools for cities and governments to analyze and use data collected on infrastructure, efficiency, and other basics. The company's official headquarter are still in Armonk, New York, but its operations have largely dispersed.  We're gearing up for a conversation about some of the lessons learned for upstate cities struggling with older infrastructure and the new economy -- so watch this space for more city tech.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.