4 ways "smart councils" are using technology to empower residents

Wed, 2013-08-28 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Sometimes it makes sense to start down the smart city path with a small project that allows you to get a quick, low-cost win – and community support – under your belt. If you're looking for ideas, these four council-led projects from the UK may provide some inspiration.


A story in The Guardian highlights digital pioneers who are using technology to empower residents, "regenerate" neighborhoods and/or grow their economies. How they're going about it is what makes the story so interesting.

For instance there's Kirklees, a metropolitan borough West in Yorkshire, England, where the council launched a "Who Owns My Neighbourhood?" project that opened land ownership data to the public. The data helps boost citizen empowerment and can lead to what the refer to as "regeneration" of a neighborhood. An example might be a group of parents who want to see a piece of derelict land turned into a playground. The land ownership data gives them a starting point.

Open data is also a key part of Lambreth's goal of being the UK's first cooperative council. Council members in the Central London district are using a digital toolkit and open data to collaborate with residents. It also hosts a website called Lambreth in Numbers to demonstrate how data released by government agencies can be useful to the public.

Sunderland Software CityAnother interesting approach is happening in North East England where the Sunderland City Council launched a software business incubator. It's a public-private partnership to help grow tech startups in the city and boost the local economy. As The Guardian explains, the 60 startups housed in the software center have access to high-speed broadband and other tech amenities – as well as free events and training provided by the council's private-sector tech partner, IBM (also a Smart Cities Council Lead Partner).

Finally, there's the smart grid project that the Stoke-on-Trent council is championing. The city in Staffordshire  launched a local power authority to meet energy needs by redirecting industrial waste to power homes and businesses. Says Mohammed Pervez, the council leader: "We have the potential to exploit heat, gas and electricity to power operations right across the city. Offering a secure source of energy from natural and waste resources within the city's boundaries will be a real incentive for businesses."

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