Discussion: What Makes a Connected City?

by Kevin Lawver on December 21, 2011

Thank you to everyone who came out to Refresh last night! The turnout was more than we could have hoped for and I loved how everyone participated. I thought the discussion was really great and we came up with some really good ideas and paths to recommend the city go down in the process of finding the new “CTO” for Savannah.

The point of this post is to continue the discussion and open it up for folks who weren’t able to attend last night. We said we’d:

  • post the list of the three things the Creative Coast is delivering to the city
  • and the big list of ideas you guys came up with.

You guys (the Refresh Community) are supposed to:

  • Share this post with your respective communities (the Savannah community on Reddit was mentioned, for example).
  • Add links in the comments to cool things happening in other cities.
  • Add comments adding new ideas or fleshing out ideas from the list.

And that’s it! Let’s keep this discussion going! It would be a shame if the energy and passion expressed last night fizzled and doesn’t end up helping to change anything for the better.

The three things the Creative Coast is supposed to deliver to the city are:

  • A list of innovative things being done in other cities that could be done here.
  • A job description for the role of CTO.
  • The results of the meeting with the Refresh community.

Jake and Murray are going to see what they can provide of the work that’s already been done. If they can share more, I’ll add to this post.

And the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the giant list of ideas we came up with (plusses afterwards mean it was mentioned or upvoted by another person):

  • Make computers easier to admin
  • Pay city bills online! +
  • City Bike Share +, pedicab rental
  • Free city-wide wi-fi +
  • Open parking spot finder
  • Renewable energy alliance
  • Traffic/congestion updates for truck drivers
  • Smart energy meters for all new buildings & homes +
  • Digital Divide/marginalization – access to hardware/software/signal +
  • Maker/hacker space + – connect to areas w/ digital divide & (unintelligible) issues
  • cost-saving technology – improve efficiency in existing systems +
  • Resilient self-sufficient communities
  • Restructure county/city websites
  • Restructure public transit reliability & predictability ++
  • Open, transparent government – open data
  • Reach out to “normals”
  • Connect cities within GA/statewide public transit +
  • Citizen involvement in government/idea sharing with government/Participatory government
  • Agile development practices adopted in government
  • Relationship between wisdom and technology – tap into people in Savannah with practical wisdom
  • Make history accessible with one click
  • Practical, attainable, grounded in feasibility
  • How do we close the digital divide and the “real world” divide at the same time?
    • How do we educate everyone on the potential of these ideas/technology
    • Most address the broadest common denominator/accessibility
  • Human potential & infrastructure
  • What’s the “scoring/rewards system” for Savannah? How do we decide the divide?
  • The city as API-open data/community analytics
    • Code for America
  • How do we get access to city interfaces
  • An app for “What do you want, Savannah?”/Advocacy & “City Docent(??)”
  • Crowd-sourcing data analytics/trouble spotting
  • Crowd-sourcing crime reporting/statistics
  • Crowd-sourcing text/email 911
  • Crowd-sourcing Foursquare for crime!!
  • How do we make these services analog?
  • What happens to 311 data?
  • What are the city’s core values, mission statement, personas?
  • City coding competition – reward/public-private judges/kickstarter
  • Involve local students!!
  • Who are we?
    • Government
    • “Come heres”
    • “From heres”

Now bring on the discussion!!


First of all, let me thank Refresh and The Creative Coast for hosting this event. There were some great ideas generated, and I think some simple things to implement.

I think the biggest issue that the city will have to overcome with any sort of “technology enabling” is how to best spread the word of this new technology. If the city suddenly (or slowly) starts a big technology push, what’s the best way to let people know about them? Of the 30 or so people at Refresh, only a handful knew about initiatives that the city was already undertaking…for example the 311 service and the interactive crime mapping. I also think that it’s important to note that the vast majority of the people at the Refresh event were “come heres” (ie, not originally from Savannah), which in my mind means that “from heres” may not be as open to any sort of technological advances that the city makes, and therefore even harder to spread the word about these advances.

With that being said, I think the easiest thing for the city to implement is opening up the data for public consumption. If someone then wants to process this data into usable and useful applications, it only makes sense to do this. It benefits both the general public and the city.

by Chad Warner on December 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm. #

Spreading the message about features / services is a challenge for all entities so no surprise the City has room to grow their reach. Focus is key. To Chad’s point (and the BIG IDEAS that came out of the discussion), opening data access is a great first step that seems within reach. If we can help direct the City to solve short term needs with technology, perhaps we can affect the overall direction and speed at which we march toward a more wired, tech friendly city government.

by Radford Harrell on December 27, 2011 at 9:56 am. #