Public-Private Partnership Council to Crowdsource Urban Tech for Chicago

City officials in Chicago, Illinois have formed a public-private technological transformation council to crowdsource urban technology practices in an effort to build an inclusive tech workforce, save the city $200 million in IT costs, and ready the city’s infrastructure for internet-connected devices. Large companies, such as Mastercard, Cisco, Microsoft, AT&T – as well as local firms – are participating.

“This is a big-thinking type of group,” said George Burciaga, chief executive of Ignite Cities, a consulting group that worked with the city in forming the council. “It’s not just paint-on-the-wall. It’s do we need the wall? It’s not just that we have traffic and should build another lane. It’s do we need cars?”

The group is led by Alderman Gilbert Villegas – the chair of the Chicago City Council’s Economic, Capital, and Technology Development Committee. The working group will meet monthly for three months to develop a draft framework of policies and practices that can be presented to the Mayor and/or the City Council later this year. The draft is expected to help the city determine what ideas and technologies can actually be implemented over the next 12 months.

The working group plans to examine the use of technology for more citizen-oriented services such as information kiosks and public transit, rather than just maintaining internal city services. They also plan to make use of IT strategies popularized by the private sector, such as lean services and agile development.

“We take a look at [private sector technologies],” Villegas said. “Let them work the kinks out through their R&D, and once they’ve perfected it, why shouldn’t we take a look at following the industry?”

Ignite Cities created its “Connected City Consulting Practice,” to meet the need to align the competing interests involved in any urban technology project.