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The June 14 Bloomberg Women in Smart Cities Forum was aimed at bringing together city, state and federal officials and their partners to share successes and challenges in charting a path to inclusive smart cities. I believe one of those paths is through innovative public-private partnerships, which offer tremendous growth and opportunity for U.S. cities.

Creative public-private partnerships

It was a privilege to represent Microsoft at the Forum and join representatives from Goldman Sachs, the City of Baltimore, Verizon and the National League of Cities on a panel about collaborating on smart city solutions. My key takeaway from our discussion: we’re going to see more creative partnerships that enable cities to execute on their vision.

Our government sales teams are already seeing requests for proposals that reflect this trend, with cities:

  • Clearly describing their plans and identifying desired outcomes, including revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Seeking new forms of outside investment to support their strategies.
  • Moving away from the traditional siloed approach of RFPs for specific departments and consolidating requirements across city departments.

Shonte Eldridge, Baltimore’s deputy chief of operations, talked about how her city is taking this higher level, more inclusive approach to smart city RFPs and with citizens. In her role leading Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s smart-city initiatives, Shonte explained their goal of looking across departments to create broad RFPs and engaging residents in smart city plans. For example, she described how the city was considering putting large informational kiosks in a particular neighborhood, but after hearing from the community that they would not utilize that particular design, they explored other options.

Outside investments in cities

Two recent RFPs we received from cities contained provisions to bring outside investment from prospective partners. We believe this is a result of cities recognizing:

  • They cannot afford to do everything they want on their own.
  • They have incredible resources of data at their disposal that can become actionable and monetized to help them achieve their objectives.

Using municipal data wisely and effectively is a key to helping cities transform and become smarter. For example, Microsoft recently joined Mastercard to help cities use economic insights in more integrated and efficient ways. With the goal of creating a global exchange platform that links data from across public and private entities, cities will be able to visualize economic activities and model scenarios to help inform their decision-making.

Commitment to cities

While the investment model in city RFPs is relatively new, Microsoft has been investing in cities for years through our support for nonprofits and programs such as Microsoft for Startups, DigiGirlz, TEALS, YouthSpark, digital skills programs and more. With Microsoft’s mission of empowerment, our CityNext team is creating digital alliances to integrate our breadth of community support with a city’s priorities while proposing innovative, cloud-based digital services and smart-city solutions to better serve citizens and gain efficiencies. This unique combination differentiates Microsoft and demonstrates our long-term commitment to help cities enhance their quality of life for all residents.

Microsoft is excited to see cities pursuing new ways of doing business. We look forward to serving as a strategic partner to empower city governments to achieve their smart-city goals and help them become more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive along the way.

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