Building a Smart County

There is a lot of information available on Smart Cities, however, how relevant is this information for building a Smart County? On the surface, the geography and demographic differences might suggest a different approach is needed. In some ways this is true, place based approaches are essential for successful Smart strategies. But the basic principles for building a Smart City or County are the same, regardless of location.

In 2015, the research charity Nesta, produced a report called Rethinking Smart Cities from the Ground Up and is still equally valuable as a framework today. Nesta had investigated Smart Cities from around the world to discover how digital strategies could create connected cities driven by insight. The report condensed these findings into 5 key policy recommendations aimed at improving implementation.

To create a template for an effective Smart County strategy I’ve adapted the 5 Smart City recommendations.

1. Set up an innovation hub.

A counties population can be geographically dispersed across both rural and urban areas. Innovation hubs built into a shared space can solve this where people from community, industry and academia can work together on solving common place based problems. There is a synergy between the objectives of a smart city and social enterprise and therefore hubs of this kind could help to develop a smart county open for experimentation and innovation.

2. Use platforms to mobilise collective knowledge.

Platforms widen the capacity of businesses and citizens to contribute. An Amazon style platform which clearly presents local ideas and services provides not only access, but the chance to remotely feedback and shape services for all citizens, promoting community capacity and place based inclusion.

3. Take human behaviour as seriously as technology

A Smart County isn’t just about purchasing the latest technology and hoping for the best. Frontline workers can be highly fragmented across a county, building unique pockets of place based expertise. This expertise needs to be supported and enhanced by technology, not replaced by it. This will help us transition into a vision where our frontline workers are focused on delivering place based outcomes for our citizens using digital.

4. Invest in smart change, not just smart technology

Digital leadership has changed dramatically, and is no longer just about keeping up to date with the latest technology. Getting smart insight at the centre of the business model calls for new ways of working across an entire county. This requires significant change in mindset, planning and work practices whilst keeping people excited and motivated. The primary skill of a modern digital leader is about creating the right conditions for change.

5. Spread the potential of Smart technologies to all parts of society

There is an opportunity by engaging with all sectors to use “bottom up” empowered communities as well as “top down” political leadership to drive the innovation required to develop a vibrant business environment and infrastructure. These are essential components required to build a sustainable and inclusive Smart Staffordshire for the future.


Dionne Lowndes

Head of Customer Service and Digital Leader

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