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Can Smart Cities technology improve outcomes for low-income Baltimore residents?

This month, GovEx joined researchers from Morgan State University and University of Baltimore in kicking off a project led by the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland to answer the question, “How can investments in Smart Cities Technologies Improve The Lives Of Low-Income, Inner-City Residents?” Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project seeks to develop a Smart Cities strategic plan and research network.

To examine whether smart cities technology like public wifi and smart transit can increase opportunities for greater social mobility, Dr. Sheri Parks, Associate Dean for Research and University of Maryland, will lead qualitative research to examine the outcomes that residents in West Baltimore would like to see in their neighborhood.  These findings will influence the technology and data components of this project, while piloting new approaches to collaborate with residents and design infrastructure that works for each unique community. This inclusive process is necessary to truly understand the potential for technology to change outcomes in Baltimore.

Informed by the qualitative research from the community and our own experience and resources on data management practices, GovEx will make recommendations around the type of data to be collected, the best way to ensure that data is accessible and secure, indicators of success, and ways to visualize progress. GovEx will co-lead the data management component of this project, along with University of Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA).

In partnering with this consortium of leading institutions, GovEx will contribute our national perspective on the trends and experiences of cities that have explored smart cities technology. Cities that are leaders in the smart cities space, such as San Jose, CA, Columbus, OH, and Kansas City, MO, put the outcomes for residents at the forefront of their smart cities planning. For instance, Columbus plans to improve transit options for residents with cognitive disabilities, and has listed “improve people’s quality of life” as the top goal in winning the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge. In San Jose, the City’s Smart City Vision is guided by the City’s priorities, such as Safe City, Inclusive City, and Sustainable City. Kansas City has prioritized helping residents get around town, with information kiosks along its streetcar line to help people without cell phones get access to transportation information and critical alerts, and has provided free public wifi in hotspots since 2014, which was expanded in 2016.

As a result of this project, one year from now the group will have compiled information on the current and proposed smart cities projects in West Baltimore, findings from the qualitative research, a plan to develop a data platform, recommendations on indicators and visualizations to share information with the public. Far from being the end of the road, we hope that the findings, plans and recommendations that result from this project serve as a vision and inspiration for future collaboration.

Check back for updates on this project. If you have ideas, recommendations, or questions, we’d love to hear them! @gov_ex @katklosek

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