Could Technology Transform City Governance?

Could Technology Transform City Governance?

Technology has radically changed the way the way we live our personal lives, conduct our business, and communicate with friends and family. In the private sector, technology has reduced the cost of making and delivering goods, improved intelligence about consumer preferences, and reduced the amount of human labor needed to carry out simple tasks. Will similar opportunities for cost savings and improved service delivery may be possible in the public sector? Writing in SingularityHub, Peter Diamandis, MD recently posed the question “Could Tech Make Government As We Know It Irrelevant?”

It is exciting to think about how technology can be used to make cities more live-able, reduce costs of administration, yet improve the quality of public services. Yet, we still have to the right questions about how technology can and should be used for city government. Billionaire technologist Peter Thiel recently joked that “Crypto Is Libertarian, A.I. Is Communist”. While this is hyperbole, the point is that some technology tends toward centralized planning that emboldens public servants to meddle in our lives, while other tech tends to decentralize governance and empowers individual to take control over their own lives.

Steven Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor of New York City has written eloquently about the opportunities to improve the way municipal governments function in his book: “A New City O/S: The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance. Goldsmith has articulated a vision of providing faster, better, cheaper public services while allowing greater participation in decentralized, collaborative governance.  This is certainly a laudable goal of any smart city plan. Yet, concerns remain about how governments collect and use data, and whether government use of artificial intelligence will lead to more government planning and control over our personal lives. How can we know if government tech is being used for good or ill?

To address these questions and more about future cities, governance, transportation and infrastructure, the Lone Star policy Institute will host on Smart Cities and Liberty on November 28th in Dallas, Texas. The program will feature a panel of technology and policy experts. In the weeks leading up to that panel we will explore these topics through a series of articles. We hope you will join us at the event and take part of the conversation about the future of cities.

Doug McCullough, Director of Lone Star Policy Institute

Photo Credit: Danil Rodenko