Paying for smart city initiatives? Microsoft exec suggests three smart ideas

Fri, 2014-05-30 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

Joel Cherkis, GM of Microsoft's Worldwide Government team, notes in a recent blog post that there are a lot of ways cities can address the challenges of urbanization. But what he hears from city leaders is there aren't a lot of options to pay for them.

"What they’re searching for," he says, "is a solid business model, a blueprint for bringing together the right funding sources -- from grantors, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others -- when multiple stakeholders are involved."

He admits he hasn't come across a perfect blueprint in his work with cities, but has seen some interesting possibilities. On his list:

  • Public-private partnerships (PPPs) where private investors finance public projects in return for long-term operations contracts are popping up around the world, he says. Two examples: Barcelona and St. Petersburg.
  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) might be an alliance between cities, private companies, academic institutions, philanthropies, etc. He points to CleanTech San Diego as an example.
  • Smart cities consulting companies are increasingly working with cities as trusted advisors on planning, deploying and maintaining sustainable city models.

Talk to other cities and smart cities advocates

Where to find these partners? Talk to other cities, see what's working for them, he says. He also suggests cities have an advocate in what he calls the intelligent cities consortia -- and mentions the Smart Cities Council as an example.

Click to read the full blog post; I've just skimmed the surface here.  And while we're on the subject of paying for smart cities initiatives, if you haven't downloaded the Smart Cities Financing Guide you are missing out on detailed analysis of 28 municipal financing tools. To acess the Guide, simply complete a short, one-time free registration. Once you do, all of the Council's premium content is available to you.

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Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to learn about the benefits you receive when you join the Council for free. Follow @Jesse_Berst and connect on LinkedIn.