Successful smart places—whether cities or regions—will be about much more than new technologies. They’ll also support inclusive, good growth, create thriving, resilient communities and enhance the experience of visitors, residents and businesses.
PwC’s Local State We’re In 2019 survey shows the vast majority - 94% - of local public service leaders agree that place leadership is important. As one council chief executive who responded to the survey put it: “We need to think about our place - not as a council but as a public leadership system. How can we continuously improve our place for all those who live, work or visit, creating equality of opportunity and outcomes? To do this, leaders across the public sector need to come together and humbly lead for a common and not corporate purpose.”
But our report also highlights the barriers to successful place based working, with austerity putting local services under pressure and unaligned incentives and a siloed approach from central government standing in the way of the collaborative approach that is needed.
A vision for smart places based on collaborative working
Against this backdrop, how can local leaders deliver on their ambitions to support inclusive growth, embrace the opportunity technology offers, and create thriving communities and places?
techUK’s vision for a digitally-enabled, joined-up system that brings local public services together to create places where citizens want to live, work and thrive – safely, resonates with our own work and research:
Our Good Growth for Cities 2019 report shows continued broad improvements across UK places, with the long term view showing that good growth has been largely driven by skills improvement and new businesses. However, there are also signs that progress has plateaued, with the overall ‘price of success’ becoming more pronounced, and the need for collaboration across a wide set of partners more defined. Bradford has been named this year’s top improver, with local stakeholders emphasising the important role of local partnerships and collaboration in providing people with a real pathway to an improved quality of life.
From a hyperlocal perspective, we are excited within our role managing the Government’s High Street Task Force (led by the Institute of Place Management) to see the prominence of data and design. The Task Force has been set up to support local leaders to revitalise high streets and town centres as they adapt to changing consumer trends. Whilst not directly related to the Task Force, it will be interesting to see how publicly available datasets - including the Ordnance Survey’s High Street dataset, which it has developed alongside the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government - are used to serve the govtech startups and data platforms that are key to creating places where citizens want to live, work and visit.
When it comes to improving public safety, our global research sets out how AI and new technology are being applied to public safety globally. This includes digital case management in Norway (aiming to solve or complete 40% to 50% of cases within a single day); ‘community portals’ In New South Wales, Australia (applying machine learning on top of citizen reported crime data); and predictive policing in Vancouver (using geographical and temporal algorithms). In the UK, Elucd - a startup participating in this year’s PwC govtech ‘Scale’ programme - is helping place leaders improve trust and safety by tracking in real-time the neighborhood ‘pulse’, and developing insight backed strategies for their improvement.
What is clear from these examples, is that collaboration, underpinned by technology, is key to tackling the challenges places face and turning visions into reality. In these times of uncertainty, local public leaders must hold firm on the mission of working together to create places where people want to live, work and feel safe.