AventiaNews January 2013
14/01/2013 |
We call our strategy MESSI: M for Mobility, E for E-Government, S for Smart Cities, S for Information Systems and I for Innovation
Manel Sanromą, Manager of Barcelona City Council’s Municipal Institute of Computing
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   val-eEven though it has been affected by the economic crisis, over the last year the city of Barcelona has continued to lead the way in new technology and has hosted international events that have strengthened its position in the industry. The Municipal Institute of Information Technology (IMI) has been instrumental in this process. So how would you sum up your first year at Barcelona City Council as manager of the IMI?

Barcelona and its City Council are weathering the crisis pretty well and we want to help the people of the city and the country as a whole to cope with it too. Under the newly elected council the IMI will no longer only be a service unit for the City Council but instead will become the executive arm of the Council's ICT strategy. Over the course of this year we have started working on this, so that in addition to delivering services to the Council and starting to revamp and improve them, we have also envisioned how the IMI is to be the tool the Council uses to turn ICT into one of the cornerstones of entrepreneurship and wealth creation in the city and the country. We have started to do that but there is still a long way to go, and while we will lead the process when necessary we will mostly be supporting the civil society stakeholders involved in this vision.

Now we have reviewed recent events, what are the IMI’s strategic priorities in the coming years?

We summarise our strategy, based on one of Barcelona’s best brands, by the acronym MESSI: M for Mobility, which means supporting anything that mobile ICT can contribute to society (and above all with absolute support for the Mobile World Capital); E for E-government, with all the changes that the new ICT (mobility, social networking, cloud, geopositioning, etc.) entail for the relationship between government and citizens; S for Smart Cities, the key area in ICT’s impact on the city and its management; S for Information Systems that need to change to take on board the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) effect, or in other words the power of personal computing against corporate computing; and finally I for Innovation, without which we run the risk of continuing to do poorly what we were already doing poorly but in another guise.

One of the growth areas which Barcelona relies on is unquestionably everything to do with innovation in smart cities. The SmartExpo and the work done by Catalan companies with the City Council to develop these M2M-Smart technologies in the city has meant that over the past year Barcelona has been the international face of the sector and has led this congress worldwide. What has the IMI’s role been in the development of the smart city in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area?

The IMI is an instrument of the City Council which has drawn up the MESSI strategy (and in particular in smart cities) that the IMI is tasked with implementing and managing. So we are coordinators, catalysts and sometimes project leaders. But in a field as inherently cross-cutting as smart cities and relations with the metropolitan area and companies of all kinds, the key players are the Council’s management departments (Mobility, Energy, Infrastructure, Urban Planning, etc.) that carry out vertical projects. Hence putting the IMI under Urban Habitat (Town Planning, Housing, Environment, Urban Services, Infrastructure and ICT) is a strategic step that helps the Institute to drive this area.

You yourself said that Barcelona has already gone down in history as a city that, with its origins in agriculture and having gone through an industrial stage, now has to “grow with technology, building productive neighbourhoods and becoming an interconnected city”. And it has not done so badly since it has been named MOBILE WORLD CAPITAL. The City Council has played a major role in ensuring Barcelona is connected with its inhabitants, but how do you see mobility being used in the services offered by the City Council from now on? What are the priorities for this sector in 2013?

Mobility technologies are the ones which have become successful most quickly (and I would venture to say have had the fastest impact) in the history of mankind. We are therefore at a historic crossroads where a commitment to mobile ICT applications will change industry, the economy and society over the coming decades. Barcelona and Catalonia have always been alert to the opportunities offered by “modernity" over the course of history and now once again there will be a unique opportunity. Our country will find it hard to get into the top spots in the world economic and political “leagues”. By contrast its capital, Barcelona, is known worldwide as a city that in many ways competes with other major cities around the world. ICT for mobility and the city is a golden opportunity. We are the Mobile World Capital and are recognised as a leading city in the use of ICT to improve urban planning, management and, in short, people’s lives. We need to make the most of this! Turning this opportunity into entrepreneurship and wealth creation is a responsibility of the City Council, but also of civil society: the City Council is taking up the challenge and will rise to it.

In the current situation of tight budgets, governments are opting for models in which partnership with industry is crucial for the development, sustainability and efficiency of the services ICT delivers to the various areas of business and/or management. As a result relations between the public and private sectors are being rethought and business models chosen which, having proven to be successful, can be emulated in government. What role will the IMI have in the implementation of these initiatives which, as for instance in the Catalan Government’s Competitive Dialogues, set in motion new public-private models?

As I have already mentioned, the IMI will be the tool used to execute this strategy. When we talk about the S for change in Information Systems and the I for Innovation, we are talking about precisely this: rethinking the relationship between the public and private sectors and bringing in new models to increase efficiencies and help us seize the opportunities that technological change offers to overhaul government.

Cloud services are changing traditional service delivery models and bring with them opportunities for cost efficiency and service development. Government is targeting these models and looking at copying new models based on the cloud (PaaS, IaaS, etc.) to cut costs. What does the IMI intend to do to leverage these cloud services?

We are working on an ambitious project by which Barcelona City Council will be able to tap this technology to change its back office and front office while also giving other local councils the chance to leverage efficiencies and reduce costs. We will do this in partnership with the private sector and rather than just repeating old models we will seek out new ways to help government to be more flexible, more efficient and, in short, more geared towards the real needs of people. Cloud and Barcelona are two words that we will see together a lot in the near future.
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