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Cities Worldwide Address Urban Issues Using Digital Technology

New Yorkers have often heard about Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveling domestically and overseas to meet with city leaders to compare notes on urban innovation projects. On Monday during the first day of Internet Week, representatives from a dozen cities around the globe, including New York, convened on the Mayor’s home turf.

The officials appeared at the symposium to describe their initiatives for improving their residents’ lives using digital technology. These represent quality of life and business issues rather than the most pressing urban problems. Each speaker was allotted only ninety seconds, so here’s a brief snapshot:

New York City: Last year the Big Apple launched its Made in NY website to promote local entrepreneurship. Since then they’ve expanded the effort with increased access to workspaces, partnerships with academic institutions as well as other programs and competitions to assist startups.

Boston: launched its Street Bump app, a citizen enabled sensing device for potholes. This project was introduced following extensive road construction, including the Big Dig tunnel project that lasted several years and took its toll on locals’ automobiles.

Philadelphia: The PHL program is a social enterprise partnership with funding from Michael Bloomberg. The civic challenge asks entrepreneurs to identify, select and pilot new programs that solve a host of local issues.

Chicago: Mayor Emmanuel’s ‘Broadband Challenge’ is aimed at improving the city’s fiber network by offering free wi-fi and low cost connectivity. The process even involved updating the sewer network infrastructure.

Quebec City: The Canadian city has its own social network and also has the capability for residents to send personal text messages to help with snow removal. That way they don’t ended up stranded in their cars during snowstorms.

Ottawa: The Canadian city encourages citizen engagement and government transparency. Through an open source website, the public has access to all data. The Apps4 Ottawa open data contest rewards developers who create the most valuable uses and visualizations of the open source data.

Buenos Aires: The Argentine city has started an “open data revolution”. Last week they hosted a hackathon to address how to better run their local government.

Rio de Janeiro: The Brazilian city introduced MyCityHall. It’s a record of each citizen “from cradle to grave” that unifies all their official information in one spot.

London: The British capital wants to be “the best place in Europe to start and grow a business”. To date, many startups have left before attaining success, so the city launched UK Future Fifty. It’s a program to attract fifty of the world’s fastest growing companies by offering concierge and other high level services.

Belfast: The Irish city is focusing on gaining momentum by becoming “super-connected”. They’re building a high tech network, and for starters they’re doing away with copper telecom lines.

Helsinki: The Finnish city’s goal is for their citizen’s confidential documents to remain private. They established a program whereby locals’ secret documents are removed and not published to the internet.

Beijing: The Chinese city is investing heavily in high tech industries. Its Z Park boasts a number of companies specializing in electronics, new energy and environmental protection, among other areas.

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