How Tech is Helping Local Leaders Rebuild During COVID-19

The last several weeks have overturned everyday life and exposed weaknesses across science, government services, and regretfully, the human spirit. In the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, the U.S. has reached more than one million confirmed COVID-19 cases.

To overcome this pandemic, we must rethink our human behaviors under physical distancing guidelines. We must start to rebuild by utilizing technologies that connect everyone to everything, equally and equitably.

Technology may enhance our ability to expand and establish innovative approaches to living, working and growing. Technology has rapidly connected mayors to the heartbeat of their respective cities and their residents.

San Francisco has been exceptionally successful at flattening the curve as a result of proactive measures implemented at the onset of the pandemic. Officials closed San Francisco schools on March 12 (the city had only 18 confirmed cases). This served as the catalyst for a flurry of tech deployments designed to minimize interruptions caused by “shelter in place” order. This includes 25+ “Superspots” that are currently being deployed across San Francisco to provide thousands of people with internet access. These areas are focused on the city’s most vulnerable, including public housing and neighborhoods with high concentration of students and community centers.

Rethinking Everything & Challenging Our Comforts

In today’s new world, it’s time to apply a new way of living. Ignite Cities has launched a new framework for cities to respond under these conditions. This framework leverages four values – Rethink, Develop, Collaborate and Build – to accelerate collaboration across cities and enable mayors to deploy new solutions on the frontlines.

Today city leaders are forced to assemble large scale responses with scarce resources and a lack of funding. Here are some examples of how new technologies are leading cities’ responses:

Our virtual future

The voices of our cities are now digital, causing the traditional City Hall model to become virtual. Miami and Chicago recently conducted their first virtual commission meetings, and they have gone on to introduce new methods of public participation. Across the country, mayors have adopted virtual platforms to deliver city services, collaborate, provide updates on COVID-19 and advance city operations.

While cities continue to race to adapt, we also recognize that not all data is equal. Accurate data that delivers insights and actionable results that resolve issues is paramount. This is critical to ensure city leaders have data to predict, respond and resolve future threats. For instance, take a glance at Quantela’s CoVER. This platform serves as a comprehensive coronavirus emergency response portal specifically designed to provide monitoring services, self-testing, and predictive analytics for cities and their residents. In addition, it offers several approaches for city leaders and members of the community to stay connected.

Responsiveness in a period of isolation

City leaders continue to face challenges addressing the concerns of residents. To help, companies like ZenCity are monitoring and aggregating online discourse in real-time via social and local media channels.

Los Angeles, along with Accelerator for America and Mastercard, launched the Cash Assistance Model for Cities to enable direct and immediate assistance for those most vulnerable.

Getting these dollars to families will help make sure that Angelenos overlooked by federal cash grants receive the assistance they need in this crisis,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Co-Founder of Accelerator for America.

Our Opportunity to Rebuild

This pandemic has revealed weaknesses in our local government infrastructure disrupting our ability to work, learn, and recover. We have an opportunity to rebuild how we deliver access, and doing so, our wireless services to provide connectivity to every family.

In fact, 21 million people (27%) in the U.S. do not have access to the internet with 58% of African American and 57% Hispanic adults less likely to own a laptop/desktop or have high-speed internet.

While people are sheltered, it’s time to start deploying smart infrastructure engineered to advance public Wi-Fi, safety, transit and achieve social equity and sustainability. Before we install another red-light camera, we should ensure that our families have what they need to thrive.

Our response is not about small calculated projects – it’s about delivering a strategic plan that reshapes our future. Now is the time for us to seize this moment to think bigger and to rebuild in a way that is inclusive, connected, and more equitable than ever before.  #InThisTogether

Geo Burciaga HeadshotAbout the Author: George Burciaga is the managing partner of IGNITE Cities. He is an international thought leader and architect within the smart & connect city category.  He is highly regarded for his technology deployments across cities, company acquisition in 2016 and current advisory partnerships with mayors across the country.  Among his numerous accolades, Burciaga has been honored by two U.S. presidents for contributions to government and technology leadership.  His technical experience has established him as a subject matter expert globally, but his highest achievements are his three children and the beautiful human beings they are becoming.