Review of the Government Transformation Summit in London
On 22th November, the Smart City Institute was in London to attend the Government Transformation Summit. This annual summit aims to explore the major challenges and opportunities related to the digitalisation of public services and sustainable development within regional and local governments, in the UK and beyond. Here are our main takeaways from the conferences and discussions.
1. Small municipalities face similar challenges
When you think of the Smart City concept in the UK, you likely envision large cities such as London, Manchester, or Glasgow with significant financial resources to ensure their sustainable and smart transition. Our researcher, Audrey Lebas, had the opportunity to engage with smaller municipalities, and their feedback appears quite similar to the reality of Walloon municipalities.
On one hand, as soon as we move away from medium and large cities, some innovative themes do not resonate much with representatives. Audrey testifies, "I was surprised to see that so few UK municipalities were familiar with the concept of digital twins that we have recently investigated. I expected the concept to be more widespread across the Channel, but a significant number of local administrations had never heard of it. Moreover, the discussion table related to the theme was significantly less popular than others."
On the other hand, budgets, notably impacted by Brexit, leave little room for innovation and profound changes in public policies. According to Audrey, "the motto of the day was 'easier, faster, better, cheaper.' This implies that local authorities must strongly justify the added value of an initiative, with short-term results to demonstrate a return on investment."
2. The role of the citizen as a user of the territory
Audrey Lebas had the opportunity to participate in several discussions on the role of citizens in the sustainable and smart transition of territories. She notes, "I was quite struck by the fact that citizen involvement was primarily highlighted from a user experience perspective. Terms like 'customer satisfaction,' 'providing services to end consumers,' or 'G2C' were frequently used by public representatives (e.g., regional public agencies, municipalities), which I rarely hear from local representatives in Wallonia, who, in my opinion, advocate more for inclusion than final service."
In the afternoon, our researcher also had the opportunity to participate in discussions on citizens' trust in the use of technology by local governments. The main levers, both by public authorities and private operators, to improve this trust are authenticity, logic, and empathy. The main obstacles, on the other hand, are perceptions of lack of integrity and justice, both linked to a lack of transparency and information to the public about the technologies used.
For its part, the Smart City Institute prefers to talk about citizen engagement. To learn more, we invite you to watch the playlist dedicated to the topic.
3. The "What Matters" monitoring and evaluation framework
If we were to highlight only one best practice from a methodological and scientific perspective of this summit, it would be the "What Matters" monitoring and evaluation framework developed by the Australian government. Adopted and published in July 2023, this model aims to track the well-being of citizens at the national level as the goal well beyond traditional indicators such as GDP or employment rates. It revolves around five pillars: health, safety, sustainability, cohesion, and prosperity. The major categories of composite indicators are available in the attached image, and the complete document (in English) is available by clicking here.
We encourage all stakeholders engaged in a sustainable transition process in their territory to review the document for inspiration in building a Smart City monitoring and evaluation methodology. As a reminder, our Practical Guide 5, available for free download here, outlines the necessary steps for constructing such a methodology."