Category Archives: cities

What Vancouver is Doing Right and Delhi is Doing Wrong!

Vancouver is an interesting city. One of the reasons is its commitment to sustainability.

Its goal is to be entirely powered by clean energy by 2050 — not just electricity, but transportation and heating as well. (I talked to city manager Sadhu Johnston about it in July 2016.)

And that is not all

… the city adopted the goal of 50 percent “sustainable mode share” by 2020 — half of all trips in the city taken by walking, biking, or transit rather than automobile.

And it reached that goal in 2015.

Vox has more on this. Very cool!

Contrast that with Delhi

Delhi has earned the unenviable distinction of becoming the most polluted city on Earth this month, as air quality has reached espically bad proportions, prompting some residents to flee.

Failure by the government to address the causes of the pollution is a big part of the problem.

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Re-Thinking PPP’s on the city level

Public/Private Partnerships (PPP’s) were a hot topic some years ago. But in my view, the boat never really left the dock. Why not? I am not sure, but I suspect that it had to do with the pace at which government works. That pace is very different from private sector actors, and the two do not hook up except through rather complex contractual channels. We were not able to build networks that easily crossed the boundaries between public and private actors on a routine basis.

Tech should change this. It should open the door for anyone outside of government to offer ideas that can solve problems, as well as the means to share them, build coalitions and accelerate learning through doing. And it should make it easier for folks in government to react as well as generate excitement around partnering.

So why don’t we see more tech platforms that better link government and private actors? Perhaps they are there,and it is just me that doesn’t see them.

But that does not mean they don’t exist.  This initiative from New York does look interesting. It is called NYCx, and Fred Wilson writes about its “challenge” program. Very  cool! But as Greg Satell writes, having a platform does mean that the platform will deliver value added. I will keep track of NYCx and stay on the look out for more of these types of initiatives.

Very cool!

Time for Puerto Rico to Go Solar?

Make no mistake, Puerto Rico has just suffered a disaster of epic proportions via Hurricane Maria. Not only that, but Puerto Ricans have discovered that they will not get sufficient relief from the US feds.

That all sounds like bad news and it is. At the same time, it is the type of news that opens the door to new thinking. After all, at this stage, what have you got to lose?  In the wake of this disaster, Puerto Rico may find a new uniting narrative about how to rebuild.

For example, power is out on the island. It will not be restored for months. Is it time to consider how to use this as an opportunity to re-think how power should be delivered?  Why not? Especially when we are in the midst of a revolution in moving from fossil fuel generated power plants to decentralized solar!

Put it this way. Does it make sense for Puerto Rico to rebuild an antiquated power infrastructure? Or does it make sense for Puerto Rico to embrace a trend that is likely to replace it?

Enter Elon Musk, a dude who has a big stake in making the revolution happen. Musk is pitching to Puerto Rico that his companies can help rebuild its power infrastructure based on solar.

What would you do if this were your decision?

Stay tuned to find out what Puerto Rico does!

Coming to Toronto: A Smart City Hub

To be honest, I am not entirely sure what a “smart city hub” is. The advertisement to develop the Quayside smart city hub envisions

…  the district as “an exemplary waterfront community that achieves precedent-setting standards of sustainability, resiliency, innovation, inclusivity and design excellence,”

Image result for Toronto Quayside Sidewalk Labs

That all sounds good, but who would want to plonk down the billioin dollars or so to build it? Apparently “Sidewalk Labs is ready to do that. The money supposedly will come from Google, though the details apparently are not yet arranged.

The board of the Waterfront district of Toronto will vote on Sidewalk Labs proposal on October 20. Any no votes? I tend to doubt it.

This is very cool stuff, and it illustrates the potential benefits of thinking big.

Government by Kickstarter?

How many people do you know who say that they love paying taxes? Hmmm … I did meet a Swede who made that argument. But I can’t remember anyone else. At best, I have heard that “I do what I am supposed to do.” Or I hear “What choice do I have?” But not, “Yes! I  would like to pay more if I could!”

And yet, people are paying more! City Lab reports that local governments are getting into kickstarter campaigns to raise cash for public projects. And they are working. People want to pay for stuff when they know what they are getting.

This reaffirms an idea that Dave Meslin discussed in a TED talk some years ago. People are not naturally apathetic about participating in government. But in many cases, government has not evolved in ways — so far — that enables that participation.

Will that change?