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Microsoft Cloud: Article

Coming to a City Near You: Microsoft CityNext

A global initiative empowering cities, businesses and citizens "to re-imagine their futures and cultivate vibrant communities"

"Cities play a vital role in our lives - both now and in the future. Microsoft's CityNext initiative puts people first and builds on this new era of collaborative technology to engage citizens, business and government leaders in new ways," said Laura Ipsen, corporate vice president of Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector, as Microsoft today announced CityNext, a global initiative empowering cities, businesses and citizens to re-imagine their futures and cultivate vibrant communities.

"Working with our vast Microsoft Partner Network," added Ipsen, "we can scale solutions and services to do 'New with Less,' enabling cities to better compete in the global marketplace, drive citizen engagement, and foster economic, social and environmental sustainability."

She was speaking at the Worldwide Partner Conference. She continued:

"Cities are centers of industrial, economic and entrepreneurial activity that fuel the rest of the world's success. But cities increasingly encounter compelling forces, such as rapid urbanization, modernization mandates, and economic austerity pressures. Microsoft CityNext offers cities a vast and diverse Microsoft Partner Network of more than 430,000 technology experts across the globe to innovate today and create a better tomorrow. Leveraging a broad portfolio of familiar and security-enhanced consumer to business software, devices and services and Microsoft's history of successful education and social programs, CityNext is a collective effort that enables cities and their people to accomplish what's next."

"Today's cities know they must tackle urban challenges through coordinated and focused investments that enable collaboration across departments and agencies, leverage existing assets, engage citizens and stakeholders, and tackle long-standing problems," said Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, director of the Smart Cities Strategies program at IDC. "According to IDC's Smart City Maturity Model, many cities are now in the first stages of implementing smart technology solutions as part of a 10- to 15-year path to realizing full transformation potential. The result of 'smart city' initiatives will ultimately enable cities to attract businesses and citizens to build more vibrant city landscapes and competitive economies."

According to Microsoft, CityNext "brings together an ecosystem of partner solutions, devices and services that can connect and transform a variety of city functions." They include the following:

  • Energy and water
  • Buildings, planning and infrastructure
  • Transportation
  • Public safety and justice
  • Tourism, recreation and culture
  • Education
  • Health and social services
  • Government administration

CityNext customer Barcelona, Spain - long recognized as a digital innovator - has successfully harnessed cloud, data and apps to enhance administrative operations, interact with citizens and make information transparent. For example, Microsoft and CityNext partner BISmart worked with the Barcelona City Council to launch OpenData BCN, an initiative to make data accessible to the public. Using the Windows Azure cloud, the OpenData BCN platform aggregates myriad facts about the city - such as population density and total unemployment - into a central hub with enhanced security. Citizens then can download the bigov Better City Indicators app from the Windows Store and monitor fluctuations in real time. Barcelonans now have access to information to make decisions on topics such as where to start a business and where to settle down with their families.

"We've been working with Microsoft for many years and have witnessed tremendous innovation across government, enterprise and citizen services through cloud technology and devices," said Xavier Trias, mayor of Barcelona. "Yet, even more can be done to engage Barcelonans and enhance citizens' experiences. We will continue to collaborate closely with Microsoft and leverage cutting-edge technology, services and programs that will make Barcelona a better place to live, work, visit and thrive."

Engaging citizens and businesses using the Windows Azure cloud platform
Citizens and businesses expect access to and interaction with city governments through apps and the devices of their choice - anytime, anywhere. With its software, device and services platform, Microsoft believes that cities "can deliver personalized services and apps with a people-centric approach, enable real-time dialogue via social media, and spur app development and economic growth with open data initiatives, resulting in better-served and engaged constituents."

Microsoft CityNext partner Socrata Inc., for example, a cloud software company leading the shift to data-driven government, is working with Microsoft to bring open data technologies to cities worldwide on the Windows Azure cloud platform. For example, Socrata offers governments customizable dashboards. Citizens can access their cities' dashboards through mobile devices or the Internet and monitor how their leaders are performing in areas such as education, healthcare and job creation. City leaders can engage with citizens in real time, incorporate public demands into their decision-making processes and ensure that they respond to their communities' most pressing needs. In turn, governments can bring data and citizen feedback into every decision, fostering greater transparency and community participation.

"The forward-looking CityNext initiative addresses a once-in-a-generation global shift currently taking place in government: opening up government data and using it to enhance citizen services," said Kevin Merritt, CEO and founder at Socrata. "Through simple, familiar apps and devices, governments can now engage everyone, everywhere. We are already seeing incredible progress and, in partnership with Microsoft, will enable global leaders to make sound decisions, drive efficiencies and help them meet citizen demands for ubiquitous access to information."

Microsoft is helping to accelerate innovation and opportunity
Cities will not only realize full transformation through technology, Microsoft realizes. It will also require nurturing the creativity of their most important resource - human capital. Microsoft and its partners already offer a variety of skills-based programs that educate students and teachers, foster business development, and empower citizens to join a competitive workforce. Around the world, these programs have helped millions of city residents cultivate a brighter future for themselves and their cities. As examples, Microsoft drew attention today to its programs like YouthSpark, BizSpark and IT Academy - which "encourage youth to join a growing workforce, support entrepreneurs' bold ideas and create skilled workers that help cities compete in the global marketplace."

Which are the world's most visionary cities?
Cities are already on their journey toward modernizing today. In fact, several visionary cities have stepped forward to embark with Microsoft and CityNext partners on this journey to identify and create what is next for their communities. Led by motivated, forward-looking leaders, these cities are taking an important step to better serve citizens and realize the potential of tomorrow through cross-functional collaboration that increases efficiencies, reduces costs and fosters a more sustainable environment. Cities cited by Microsoft include:

  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Hainan Province, People's Republic of China
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Manchester, England
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Philadelphia, United States of America
  • Zhengzhou, People's Republic of China

For more information about CityNext, see

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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