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How do you create a successful PPP model for smart cities?

How do you create a successful PPP model for smart cities?

When the global pandemic hit the U.S. in 2020, Chattanooga utilized its city-wide gigabit fiber network to help assure that even the most disadvantaged of its 45,000 public school students would still have access to essential remote learning. That response was a smashing success, but the ultimate takeaway was about much more than simply supporting those students. As with the initial network deployment in 2010, Chattanooga made it happen through highly successful public private partnership/collaborations (PPP/PPC) between a public agency and private sector entities.

At Nokia we wanted to distill the essentials of Chattanooga’s impressive results with similar experiences from other locales around the world so that aspiring smart cities everywhere would have a policy and practice roadmap to create their own successes.  PPPs are a very attractive vehicle for large-scale transformation – however, they are complex to structure and implement. That was one of the drivers behind the effort World Economic Forum’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance,  to develop a primer for Smart City Public Private Collaborations, designed to benefit others seeking to embark on smart city PPP/PPCs.

From concept to policy framework

Let’s be frank: the challenges associated with the design, development and maintenance of smart city networks are substantial. To succeed, urban leaders must balance the needs and incentives of both public and private stakeholders. In part, this formula for success means focusing on a broad scope of solutions, finding adequate capital support for the rollout, using procurement models that will fully support multi-year, complex partnerships and thoughtfully addressing the nuanced considerations of the public response to data sourcing and privacy.

Chattanooga’s pioneering network, initially built by the city-owned utility, EPB, alongside its grid upgrade, had already made it the first municipality in the U.S. to provide citywide gigabit per second (gbps) service – since boosted to 25 gbps. In its first decade the network helped generate US$2.69 billion (more than 4.4 times the cost) in economic benefits, according to independent research conducted by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These benefits have not only bridged the digital divide, but have supported a robust startup tech community and job creation overall. They also have reduced carbon emissions and even manage citywide streetlight, traffic and security systems, to mention just a few of the many benefits to citizens.

Overall, Chattanooga’s experience, along with other success stories from around the world – from Dijon to Almaty, Toronto, Wellington, Chicago, San Diego and elsewhere – provide compelling stories of the governance, financial and technical approaches necessary to address such projects. Clearly, these lessons, strategies and best practices need to be heard by aspiring smart cities far and wide.

So, when the World Economic Forum’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance put together an expert taskforce to look for best practices and model policies for PPCs in 2021, Nokia was all in. And, we believe the task force findings and recommendations offered a great opportunity to distill them in a primer designed for easy accessibility and high value. It was a privilege to be a member of this taskforce.

Your smart city starting point

Our primer is meant to be a starting point– a thoughtful policy framework to guide your own PPC with attention to mutual interests and incentives, legal considerations and potential conflicts between government, business and the non-profit sector. Because data is an underlying asset in all of this, it recognizes that projects of this nature are distinctive from other forms of public-private infrastructure, with unique considerations for business cases, funding, the legal landscape, risk mitigation, optimizing technology and ultimately management of the testing and deployment phases that will continue to inspire the public and private confidence as each project scales. In total we identified and illustrated 13 essential keys to an effective smart city developmental processes, vetted and augmented by the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance working group of policy experts.

Now it’s onward and upward. As the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance begins work in these areas, the World Economic Forum also is increasing its own investment to accelerate PPCs in cities around the globe – mobilizing a coalition of industry leaders, investors, local governments and international institutions to serve as first movers and pioneers for more smart city successes.

Truly, the sky is the limit in this pursuit, and our primer can be your foundation for creating your own smart city blueprint. I urge you to take a look and begin your own journey toward building a successful smart city.

Truly, the sky is the limit in this pursuit, and our primer can be your foundation for creating your own smart city reality. I urge you to take a look and begin your own journey toward building a successful smart city.

Suparno  Banerjee

About Suparno Banerjee

Suparno is the global thought leader for Nokia’s Public Sector and Smart City initiatives. With a 25-year record of leading strategic connectivity programs on the country scale, he has amassed a deep understanding of how cities and governments can use digitalization and Industry 4.0 technologies to build resilience, achieve their sustainability goals and deliver inclusive services to all citizens.

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