Informed and Interconnected: A Manifesto for Smarter Cities

by Rosabeth Moss Kanter & Stanley S. Litow

Overview — To make our cities and communities smarter, we must become a little smarter ourselves, seeking information and an agenda to forge connections enabling collaboration, according to HBS professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter and IBM's Stanley S. Litow. Their vision is that someday soon, leaders will combine technological capabilities and social innovation to help produce a smarter world. That world will be seen on the ground in smarter cities composed of smarter communities that support the well-being of all citizens. This paper outlines eight challenges facing cities and the communities they encompass, based on experience in the United States. Kanter and Litow provide examples of practices and programs led by both government and nonprofit organizations, many technology-enabled, that point the way to solutions, and they conclude with a call for leaders to embrace an agenda for change. Key concepts include:

  • The need for a new approach to U.S. communities is an urgent imperative because of the biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
  • Significant barriers to solving urban problems include geographic sprawl, residential mobility, the location of jobs, the lack of overarching strategic impact goals, weakened civic leadership, and social isolation.
  • By examining each barrier in turn (and the ways they reinforce each other), it is possible to see the opportunities for significant transformation if communities could become "smarter," with technology helping spread information and facilitate interconnections.

Author Abstract

The need for a fresh approach to U.S. communities is more urgent than ever because of the biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Through examination of the barriers to solving urban problems (and the ways they reinforce each other), this paper offers a new approach to community transformation which calls for leaders to use technology to inform and connect people. We need to convert the social safety net into a social safety network through the creation of smarter communities that are information-rich, interconnected, and able to provide opportunities to all citizens. This process has already begun through such programs as Harlem Children's Zone, Baltimore's CitiStat, Elevate Miami, and others. And they can be replicated. But technology alone is not the answer. Realization of the vision requires leaders to invest in the tools, guide their use, and pave the way for transformation. Perhaps the urgency of the current economic crisis can provide the impetus to overcome resistance to change and turn problems into an opportunity to reduce costs, improve services to communities, and make our cities smarter. 28 pages.

Paper Information