Kansas City is one step closer to being a fully connected hub for urban tech, as local decision makers craft a smart city action plan.
“That document will be what guides all of our future investments in technology,” explained Chris Hernandez, KCMO communications director.
The action plan comes a year after the city issued a request for proposal regarding smart city technology, Hernandez noted, adding citizens have remained curious about the city’s developments in urban tech.
“There’s a group that has been put together to create the action plan and the stakeholder interviews started last week,” he said of city progress. “… We’re hoping to roll that out mid-fall.”
Announced days after the election of Quinton Lucas — who is expected to become the 55th mayor of Kansas City in August — the decision to move forward with the smart city action plan was not dictated by politics, but rather timing, Hernandez emphasized.
“It was really about our RFP committee, which is staff with a council representative — as all RFPs have — it was about really evaluating the proposals … but also thinking really deeply about what we want as a city and what we need to do to move forward,” he said.
As Kansas City ramps up its urban tech efforts, the action plan is what will help the city maintain its status as a leader in the smart city space, noted Hernandez.
“We really think this is an opportunity to show other cities how you can make sure that you are pushing smart city technology and thinking deeper into the organization — to the department level, to the program level, to make sure that it’s being used to be more efficient, to deliver better basic services.”
A key component of the city’s RFP surrounding smart city technology was digital inclusion, Hernandez added.
“If you want to take it back to the mayor elect [Quinton Lucas], he’s made it clear that inclusivity is super important … and beyond the phrase ‘digital inclusion,’ it’s really about ‘digital equity,’” he said. “That’s an important distinction that maybe only people who really study that issue understand, but something that we are highly aware of and we have had many people on staff level digging into that issue already.”
Addressing the digital divide, Hernandez cited free public WiFi in downtown as movement that resulted in the same action on city buses — a step in the right direction for the city’s connectivity efforts, which will soon include the Prospect Max corridor which will focus on inclusion on the east side.
Ensuring smart solutions make life easier for residents and simplify basic services will be in key in the city’s approach to urban tech, Hernandez said.
“If you have good streets, good pipes, good infrastructure, and we are using proper data management to make sure that we’re getting that feedback so that we know how to better use our resources — which is your tax money — in order to run our city and fix the infrastructure … that’s what we’re trying to do with this action plan,” he explained.