Adding Digital Accessibility and Purposeful Inclusion into Austin’s Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap

Picture: Eight individuals of different ages, gender identities, genders, sexual orientations, classes, races, and abilities are jubilantly enjoying their accessible and purposefully inclusive Smart City and Digital Society.

How Austin’s Smart City Infrastructure could resolve social and economic inequities amplified by Austin’s technological and industrial growth

Like many other fast-growing urban centers, my hometown of Austin, TX has reached a historic tipping point triggered by Austin’s rapid urbanization. Austin City Leadership recognizes it must engage in vastly new approaches to adjust and calibrate to social and economic challenges amplified by the lighting speed of technical and industrial advances. To address these challenges, Austin is taking a big leap into the Smart City pond.

Austin’s goal is to transform into a more responsive and efficient Smart City with a focus on building a Digital Society. Austin City Leadership believes this Smart City transformation will create new pathways for improving the quality of life for Austin residents and visitors.

Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda.” John Wilmoth, Director of the United Nations Department of
Economic and Social Affairs

Austin Skyline and Lady Bird Lake from the Hyatt Panorama

Austin’s Smart City Strategic Roadmap

According to the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Austin, Kerry O’Connor, Austin City Council has requested staff develop a comprehensive Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap to help guide and coordinate all aspects of how Austin’s Smart City and Digital Society will operate and provide services. O’Connor and her team intend to co-create this plan with the broader community; and in coming months, will conduct an inventory of Smart City assets to align the plan’s development and activities.

“For every technology advance or item, multiple issues need to be addressed that go beyond the technology itself. We must look into policies, relationships, and intended and unintended consequences,” Kerry O’Connor, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Austin

Picture: Austin’s Draft Smart City Strategic Roadmap: Logic model with a series of 6 topic areas: foundational (principles, values, norms), policy (strategic intent, decision-making, and governance), teams (agile, human-centered, iterative), services (value proposition, outcomes, data as a service), technology (all the things people reference with smart cities), and business models (government as a platform, partnerships)

At issue are a series of topics — foundational (principles, values, norms), policy (strategic intent, decision-making, and governance), teams (agile, human-centered, iterative), services (value proposition, outcomes, data as a service), technology (all the things people reference with smart cities), and business models (government as a platform, partnerships).

I could not be happier that O’Connor and her team are engaging the broader community and building the logic model that will become the basis for Austin’s Smart City transformation with transparency and with an authentic and holistic approach that includes a comprehensive examination of these (6) topic areas.

An accessible and purposefully inclusive Smart City

I am hopeful that when fully developed, Austin’s Smart City Strategic Roadmap will serve as it is intended, to adequately inform City Council and Austin Leadership of the important role and responsibilities each has for Austin to positively change into a Smart City. Austin City government must play a much more informed, strategic, and foundational role in the conceptualization, development and equitable implementation of Austin’s Smart City infrastructure to ensure that Austin transforms into an accessible and purposefully inclusive Smart City.

Picture: by WordENABLED pictograph of icons representing people with cross disabilities.

An accessible and purposefully inclusive Smart City is a Digital Society where all people have equitable access to community services, benefits, and products — and are respected, valued, and purposefully included in all social, economic, cultural and political opportunities their Smart City has to offer — no matter their age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, or ability.
Darren Bates, Global Inclusion Thought Leader for Darren Bates, LLC

Austin has a lot at stake in the development of its Smart City Strategic Roadmap. The ability for Austin to positively evolve into a Smart City relies solely on the effectiveness of this roadmap. If Austin’s roadmap is unclear or disjointed, the transformation will follow suit. — But if the development of the roadmap is on-point, it has the potential of empowering all parties involved in shaping Austin’s Smart City platform — to effectively collaborate and achieve one clear strategic vision and plan.

I hoping to add value and content to Austin’s Smart City Strategic Roadmap

Pssssst …Ms. O’Conner give me a call!

  1. Helping to develop guiding principles for the planning and development of Austin’s accessible and inclusive Smart Cities platform and future programs;
  2. Curating model policies from global Smart Cities programs and best practices for consideration and possible adoption to ensure Austin’s commitment to digital accessibility for people with disabilities and purposeful inclusion of all Austinites;
  3. Building an inventory of relevant accessibility technical standards for Smart City technology and innovation, e.g. Stand Alone Smart City Kiosks;
  4. Developing a database of accessible and inclusive Smart Cities best practices and solutions and a platform for sharing and knowledge transfer;
  5. Developing and cataloging performance indicators and metrics to measure the success of Austin’s Smart City infrastructure, activities, products, and services to ensure continued improvement;
  6. Spearheading and assisting with the creation of Smart City capacity building programs and training for city officials, CIOs, partners, and technology leaders;
  7. — And as other entry points develop, creating specific tools to ensure that accessible technology and purposeful inclusion are an explicit and central component of Austin’s public policy, procurement policies and other relevant city programs and initiatives.

“A city isn’t smart because it uses technology. A city is smart because the technology it uses is digitally accessible and purposefully inclusive — so that every citizen’s’ life is better.” The Secret Sauce of a Successful Smart City by Darren Bates, LLC

Cities can only be smart if they engage and empower all citizens

Here’s a simple but quintessential Smart City policy statement: Cities can only be smart if they engage and empower all citizens. Austin will not become a Smart City just because it was recently ranked as The Best Tech City on the Planet, or because it uses advanced technologies. Nope — Austin will become a Smart City because the technology Austin will develop and deploy will be digitally accessible and purposefully inclusive — so that every citizen life is better.

Mayor Steve Adler has stated his Smart City vision for Austin

Mayor Steve Adler has — on more than one occasion — publically stated he wants Austin to become the most livable city in the nation. As well, he talked about how Austin’s strength is in its diversity and inclusiveness. Putting all of that together from a Smart City perspective, Austin’s Smart City Vision should read something like this, “Make Austin, Texas the innovation epicenter as the most accessible, inclusive, and livable Smart City in the nation.”

Mayor Steve Adler has stated he wants Austin to become the most livable city in the nation. As well, he has talked about how Austin’s strength is in its diversity and inclusiveness. Putting all of that together Austin’s Smart City Vision should read something like this, “Make Austin, Texas the innovation epicenter as the most accessible, inclusive, and livable Smart City in the nation.”

Digital accessibility and purposeful inclusion are key components to the successful transformation and digitalization of Austin’s infrastructure, society and culture. Austin City authorities have a responsibility to safeguard citizens from exclusion or from being accidently left behind — at any stage — in the development, deployment or logistical processes of Austin’s Smart City transformation.

Including accessibility and purposeful inclusion into Austin’s Smart City Strategic builds a more trusted governance model. It’s the best strategy for leveraging social and technological innovation to resolve challenges, systemic barriers and economic inequities caused by the rapidity and scale of Austin’s technological and industrial growth.

Pssssssst!— And it’s the only way Austin will transform into the The Most Livable, Accessible & Inclusive City In the U.S.

Building a Culture of Access and Inclusion™

Darren Bates is a lifelong champion of equality, inclusion, and social justice for people with disabilities and other diverse, underrepresented, and historically marginalized populations. Darren is internationally recognized as one of the most innovative and knowledgeable Thought Leaders in the field of Global Inclusion.

Darren offers accessibility and inclusion training, strategic consulting, and professional speaking services through Darren Bates, LLC.


Adding Digital Accessibility and Purposeful Inclusion into Austin’s Smart Cities Strategic Roadmap was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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