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Building a smarter city with people and technology

To start with, you need to look at the type of issues and problems that you can resolve as a city with the help of your citizens and residents. Obtaining information from them and then using technology can contribute in making the city smarter, says Gary Brantley, Chief Information Officer for The City of Atlanta

Gary Brantley, Chief Information Officer for The City of Atlanta

What is your Smart City vision for the City of Atlanta, and how is it creating value and bringing projects to life?

The Smart City vision for the City of Atlanta is around inclusivity — by using data to solve real community problems. We are using smart technologies to meet our objectives and will ensure that no one is left behind, as we start to devise an ATL Smart City plan. The value that we are creating will benefit our citizens — everything we do is centered around them. We want to make sure that our city is livable, so livability, safety and transportation are extremely important. We have covered a lot of ground on these fronts, especially around operational efficiency. As we move forward, we will continue to grow drastically in these areas.

How is Atlanta creating new opportunities, and which all technologies have been implemented to achieve the Smart City objective?

We manage opportunities through public and private partnerships as those are extremely important to us. Sometime back, we created a new Chief Information Officer (CIO) Advisory Board, which is made up of public and private sector leaders and academia. It has members from big names such as Delta Airlines and Georgia State University. As far as the use of technology is concerned, we have this one project that we are really excited about. It is basically traffic technology — we are working on making our traffic light infrastructure smarter. We have already done that to some degree and are increasing it as we move forward. This will allow our emergency medical services, fire department and police officers to control traffic to some extent and will eventually create a safer environment for our residents. We lose a lot of officers to regular accidents. Also, we have a big fibre initiative that is being taken up by public and private parties. We are further expanding our Wi-Fi connection footprint. Our goal in the next year is to have a complete layer of Wi-Fi in the City of Atlanta that allows us to always be connected.

What all challenges have you encountered as the CIO of Atlanta?

I think the biggest challenge is time. You want to move really quickly as the things that we are fixing are extremely important and are everyday life problems. So, it is basically a race against time.  Further, we have to also make sure of the funding. Hence, time and funding are the two challenges that are preventing us from quickly achieving our goals.

What differentiates Atlanta from other smart cities of the US?

I think Atlanta puts its citizens and residents at the forefront of its strategy. People talk about making sure that we have smarter cities with great digital infrastructure. Atlanta does that extremely well. The citizens are empowered to an extent that they can identify projects and see for themselves the progress made. It is not just about technology, which comes after all this. I think, first and foremost, you look at what type of issues and problems can be resolved as a city with the help of citizens and residents. Obtaining information from them and then using technology can help in making the city smarter.