How Smarter Cities Get Started

By Kris K., Birmingham City Council

I was delighted recently to be invited to join Birmingham’s new “Smart City Commission”. The Commission is meeting for the first time today, and leading up to it I gave some thought to what the common ideas are that are emerging from cities that are making progress with their “Smarter” transformations.

Many of the environmental, social and economic forces behind the transition to Smarter Cities are common everywhere; however, the capabilities that enable cities to act in response to them are usually very specific to individual cities. They depend on factors such as geographic location, the structure and performance of the local economy, the character of local communities, and the approach of leaders and stakeholders across the city.


The Knight Foundation’s excellent work on the “Information Needs of Communities," for example, highlights the importance of engaging deeply with communities to understand the information needs of the individuals within them, rather than providing generic information platforms for cities as a whole. Where such information platforms do succeed, it is because their delivery and operations are focussed on specific areas identified as priorities in consultation with communities.


Read more from the Birmingham city council 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit