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Cities worldwide are turning to the power of modern technology as municipal leaders and governments look to play a more pivotal role in combating both the environmental and systemic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought sharply into focus.

The long-held ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to planning and policies will likely no longer work to shape cities that are healthy, sustainable, efficient and prosperous for all. The future inevitably demands bold thinking to create smart cities featuring technologies, infrastructure and ecosystems that will seamlessly deliver exciting new ways of living, working and playing as local communities and urban life evolve.


Listen in new ways to put the citizen-customer first.

Simply put, citizens have similar but often deeper expectations, requirements and rights than the typical everyday customers, residents or visitors engaged in a transaction-based relationship that provides products and services. In essence, a citizen has the right to expect and receive timely, precise, citizen-focused services and experiences that effectively and consistently cater to their unique personal needs as well as those of the common good.


Begin the journey with a clear distinction.

Transformational digital technology and smart data use can enable cities to bring experience-centric service to exciting new levels of responsiveness and efficiency. But the journey forward cannot begin without a clear destination. City leaders will need new capabilities to accelerate the delivery of solutions toward today’s complicated challenges, while also embracing technology and data-driven insights to accurately assess each emerging new challenge and its potential solutions.


One size no longer ‘fits all’ as urban life evolves.

With the pandemic-induced shift in work models from city-centered workplaces to residential settings, people everywhere are typically eliminating the time, effort and cost needed for the daily commute to work. Many are also avoiding travel or exposure to crowds in an effort to safeguard their health. As a result, fewer employees are occupying once busy offices and facilities, public transit use has declined and urban thoroughfares in many cities are experiencing less congestion and, in some cases, different types of congestion.


Rebuilding to create greener, safer cities for all.

The time-sensitive message to cities and their leaders could not be clearer: the planet’s future demands strategic action today. Cities will no doubt need to demonstrate a new sense of urgency to drive faster progress toward a more sustainable future. Cities will no doubt need to demonstrate a new sense of urgency to drive faster progress toward a more-sustainable future.


Driving economic growth in a world of fiscal constraints.

Intensifying the pressure on local and city leaders in today’s dynamic economic environment is a reality. Many national and regional governments have decentralized decision making in the wake of the pandemic, empowering local administrators or leaders to assume broader responsibilities as they grapple with today’s pressing public needs and the attendant soaring costs.


The future of cities is fully connected.

Today’s future-focused cities and their leaders are wisely bidding farewell to the age-old ways of serving their communities. They realize that the world’s cities are now poised at a remarkable inflection point — one demanding nothing less than a modern mindset and bold strategic planning for a new age of seamless connections, personalized public service and optimized organizational efficiency.

We believe connectivity will be the key to delivering a revolutionary new era of customer centricity — one that fully aligns technology, talent and external partners across every city service and function. Today’s future-focused cities are already breaking down inefficient silos and forging new connections among people, processes and technologies. Along the way, traditional barriers between front, middle and back offices are collapsing.

City leaders are increasingly realizing that there is no time to lose on the journey forward. The global pandemic’s profound disruption has accelerated an ongoing and inevitable shift from the decades old due process approach that typically devotes significant time and resources to meticulous planning, time-consuming piloting and uneven implementation. The need for speed amid the pandemic’s impact has demonstrated what is possible for rapid change, and smart city leaders are not taking their foot off the gas as they shape the future.

The excerpt was taken from the KPMG Thought Leadership publication entitled The future of cities.