Smarter Cities

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We joined The Bos­ton Globe at host Way­fair HQ in Bos­ton for its “Smarter City, Smarter Skills” panel dis­cus­sion on how the in­no­va­tion econ­omy is re­shap­ing our world.

We joined The Bos­ton Globe at host Way­fair HQ in Bos­ton for its "Smarter City, Smarter Skills" panel dis­cus­sion on how the in­no­va­tion econ­omy is re­shap­ing our world. The event was spon­sored by Iron Moun­tain, and the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion, with Knowl­edge Part­ner, McKin­sey & Com­pany, and mod­er­ated by Shirley Leung, Colum­nist, The Bos­ton Globe, and Matt Viser, Deputy Wash­ing­ton Bureau Chief, The Bos­ton Globe.

The day started with a brief mes­sage from Bos­ton’s Mayor Marty Walsh on ask­ing ques­tions needed to un­der­stand the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on work­force.

McKin­sey’s John Means gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on his co-au­thored MGI re­port: "Smart Cities – Dig­i­tal So­lu­tions to a More Liv­able Fu­ture." His re­port found we are in a new era of smart cities, mov­ing past the hype and crit­i­cisms, and turn­ing to look to­ward the fu­ture where im­prov­ing qual­ity of life and out­comes for cit­i­zens will be the fo­cus in ad­di­tion to the ap­pli­ca­tions and tech­nol­ogy. Key is de­ploy­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies with im­pact di­rectly on the cit­i­zen and pub­lic is­sues to cap­ture the ben­e­fits of smart cities, while be­ing mind­ful of the ef­fects of its im­ple­men­ta­tion. The re­port also mea­sured the in­fra­struc­ture and ap­pli­ca­tion lay­ers across 50 cities from ev­ery el­e­ment of a cit­i­zen’s ex­pe­ri­ence of a city; in­clud­ing en­ergy, mo­bil­ity, wa­ter, waste, safety, com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, se­cu­rity, health, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and hous­ing. In­ter­con­nec­tion of ap­pli­ca­tions and tech­nolo­gies and their im­pact was stressed to meet op­por­tu­ni­ties of higher lev­els of cit­i­zen en­gage­ment. He gave some core take­away high­lights, namely that cities should - look how our new in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments could em­bed smart city tech­nol­ogy for the po­ten­tial of con­nected sen­sors and au­tonomous ve­hi­cles; move to­ward open­ness in data and part­ner­ships; in­vest in civic tech-savvy lead­ers for cross agency and sec­tor co­op­er­a­tion; and be­come more cy­ber-savvy with un­der­stand­ing

the im­pli­ca­tions of se­cu­rity and pri­vacy dis­rup­tion in our com­mu­ni­ties. It was found that even the most ad­vanced cities still have a long way to go.

Joseph Aoun, Pres­i­dent of North­east­ern Univer­sity, said "[It is] pro­jected up to 50% of the jobs are go­ing to dis­ap­pear in the next 20 years.. at the same time we are pro­ject­ing new jobs will be cre­ated, and frankly no one knows whether the new jobs that will be cre­ated will com­pen­sate the ones that will dis­ap­pear. Inequal­i­ties are go­ing to in­crease un­less we step in. His­tor­i­cally, ed­u­ca­tion had been the equal­izer giv­ing op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple, to first ed­u­cate them­selves and af­ter­wards to con­tin­u­ously re-tool." He rec­om­mends so­ci­ety be­come ro­bot-proof, in­clud­ing mas­ter­ing hu­man­ics in col­lege, in­clud­ing tech­no­log­i­cal, data and hu­man lit­era­cies. Please see Mr. Aoun’s book, Ro­bot Proof: Higher Ed­u­ca­tion in the Age of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence.

Ni­raj Shah, CEO of Way­fair, stated, "The types of skills you need for the fu­ture are not nec­es­sar­ily the ones in the past.. We think STEM ed­u­ca­tion should be part of a ba­sic cur­ricu­lum. A skill sought af­ter by many com­pa­nies is data sci­ence, we have a boot­camp that ad­dresses a gap out there."

"We have a planet-scale reskilling ef­fort on our hands," Anant Agar­wal said, a pro­fes­sor at the MIT and founder of

edX Mi­croMasters pro­grams, a se­ries of on­line cour­ses fea­tur­ing grad­u­ate-level train­ing in spe­cial­ized tech­ni­cal fields (~$1,000 a course, counted as credit to­ward grad­u­ate de­grees).

U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ro Khanna (D - Cal­i­for­nia) pointed out, "It shouldn’t be 'Move Fast and Break Things,' It should be ‘Move Fast and Build Things,'" urg­ing that there should be a Moore’s Law for job cre­ation.

Su­san Craw­ford stated in­no­va­tion can be thought as of a set of recipes - new ways of mak­ing a liv­ing, new ways of cre­at­ing com­pet­i­tive in­dus­tries – that re­quire some ba­sic ma­te­ri­als that the US Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has his­tor­i­cally been very brave at pro­vid­ing; namely ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture, fund­ing ba­sic sci­ence re­search and set­ting stan­dards that un­leash in­no­va­tion for ev­ery­one else.

Seat­tle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan noted, "The net is the high­way of this cur­rent time and if it isn’t eq­ui­table and ac­ces­si­ble for all the econ­omy won’t be ac­ces­si­ble for all.. we have to be bal­anc­ing in­no­va­tion with thought­ful­ness" in pre­par­ing for the con­se­quences of the fu­ture of work.

"This ef­fort has to start early-on, in preschool.. the tra­di­tional model of twelve years of school is not the way to go.. [I]t is im­por­tant to re-eval­u­ate it.. there are schools that are start­ing to teach for mas­tery," said Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Fram­ing­ham, Mas­sachusetts. She noted many kids of color are not get­ting or are afraid of get­ting STEM be­cause they think it is for bright or white kids.

"Dis­rup­tion is a very good thing, and dereg­u­la­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.. Even as dis­rupt­ing,.. you can’t leave be­hind your old values," Sen­a­tor Ed Markey (D - Mas­sachusetts) sum­ma­rized.

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