With governments tightening their budgets at the same time, the challenges of modern cities are beginning to slip beyond the ability of city councils, or even national governments, to solve alone.
As a result many are now looking beyond their bureaucrats for support and solutions, using crowd sourcing to drive innovation and broaden their policy and service options.
A key example of this is the LLGA's Cities Pilot the Future program, now entering its fourth year.
The premise is simple. Cities publish details of a strategic challenge they need help solving and the public, social enterprises, research centres, not-for-profit and for-profit organisations are invited to contribute their solutions. Jurors shortlist and select winning solutions, which are then implemented.
Over the past three years 42 global cities from Europe, North, Central and South America, Africa and Asia have taken part in the annual programs - in fact the only populated continent not to have taken part in the program is Australia.
The last three programs received in more than 1,197 entries, leading to over 30 pilot programs, affecting 285 million citizens across 38 cities.
The 2013 program, which opened last week for entries, features an enormous range of different strategic challenges from 21 cities including:
- Aalborg, Denmark: Traffic congestion early-warning system
- Barcelona, Spain: Regenerate neighbourhoods using vacant space
- Boston, USA: Rethinking road castings
- Christchurch, NZ: Transformational lighting system
- Eindhoven, The Netherlands: Data exchange on public facilities and activities
- Fukuka, Japan: Smart international conference destination
- Lagos, Nigeria: Networked standalone content hotspots
- Lavasa, India: Social uplift and empowerment
- London, UK: Energy and greenhouse gas measurement
- Mexico City, Mexico: Digital tools for better, healthier ageing
- Oulu, Finland: Encourage visitor engagement through technology
- Paris, France: Making outside seating more resilient
- Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: Accessible healthcare in intelligent cities
- Rosario, Argentina: Network of green homes
- San Francisco, USA: Storm response coordination tool
- Sant Cugat, Spain: Smart Cityscape - maximising existing resources
- Sheffield, UK: Capturing and distributing industrial heat
- Tacoma, USA: Sustainable return on investment tool
- Terrassa, Spain: Connecting people to progress
- York, UK: Reducing health inequality in York
I think the list above, together with the diverse range of strategic issues cities identified in past years, demonstrates the potential range of challenges that crowdsourcing can be used to help cities solve.
Given the global range of participating cities in the LLGA program, my question is - where are the Aussies?
Is it that our governments have single-handedly solved every strategic challenge in our cities?
(I don't believe this is true)
Or is it that Australian governments are dropping behind the rest of the world in adopting innovative approaches to solving challenges - afraid of involving citizens more broadly in finding solutions?
(I hope this isn't true!)