In May, 2021 The City of Los Angeles’s Information Technology Agency (ITA) released their strategic plan, SmartLA 2028. The plan provides an outline of how the City plans to use technology to efficiently and ethically improve the quality of life for residents, businesses, and visitors.
The plan properly positions technology as a tool that enables the city to make strides to improve transparency, prepare for natural emergencies, give voice to its constituencies, reduce the environmental footprint, and make the city more efficient from both a process and economic perspective. Technology, in itself, is not the solution to such complex problems but it can provide the tools required to better address these issues. The strategic plan lays out both near and long term goals and opens the door for increased collaboration so that Los Angeles can become a beacon, a pathfinder, in its efforts to take on and overcome the challenges faced by Los Angeles today and in the future.
In reading through the plan, it is notable that historically, cities provided services to citizens. And while a particular service met a need, it required citizens to adapt themselves to take advantage of city services. The plan laid out by Los Angeles represents a significant shift in thinking. Rather than the city providing a single solution interface for citizens to utilize (or not), Los Angeles is embracing the idea that its diverse constituencies have different needs. Therefore, the city must provide different mechanisms to support its citizens. Transportation is not strictly a matter of providing roads and assuming everyone has a car. The City must support metro, rail, bike, and shuttle service as a complement to the network of roads so residents can choose the option that best fits their needs. This technology plays an important role in making the selection of a transportation option as frictionless as possible.
Similarly, the city provides many ways to disseminate and otherwise interact with citizens to ease interactions in a way that is convenient for the citizen. For example, citizens can interact with the city on a range of topics via phone, text, a mobile app, kiosks, or via the internet.
A component of the SmartLA plan calls for the City to adapt to the citizen’s lifestyle rather than asking the citizens to conform to the City processes. The plan also describes the intent to make the City more proactive rather than reactive. Los Angeles has always strived to be supportive of citizen service needs but the expected tech tools will create the data required to allow the City the capability of anticipating needs. For example, the City will be able to identify roads in need of maintenance so they can schedule the repairs before its citizens have flagged a road as a resident identifiable priority. Such anticipatory detection of conditions benefits the City’s residents by improving their quality of life AND because the actions driven can be scheduled in advance, it also reduces costs when compared to a series of ad hoc repair activities.
Many of these technological advances are necessary to support the city’s efforts to ready itself for the 2028 Olympics. During the 2017 Olympics, Rio saw an influx of 1.17M tourists over a two week period. To smoothly support this influx of tourists while continuing to support local residents and businesses, the City will rely on new and emerging technologies that can also be utilized to support its citizens both before and after the Olympics. As these systems materialize, there will be improvements that benefit community health services, acceleration of regional economic development, enhancement of emergency services support, and a reduction energy costs.
A copy of the SmartLA plan, can be downloaded here https://ita.lacity.org/sites/g/files/wph1626/files/2021-05/SmartLA2028%20-%20Smart%20City%20Strategy.pdf