Blazing the Trail to Equitable Smart Cities
[Guest post originally published in LinkedIn]
David Capelli and I met in February of 2015 at T2 Ventures Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley focused on global innovation ecosystem building. David was graduating senior at University of Miami, and founder of TECH Miami, his brainchild to bring equity and scale to entrepreneurship to Miamians, while building the next generation of enterprise govtech. For me, I was there to connect to the global innovation world. My life in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is filled with excitement of new innovation in developing products and services and advising on the digital transformation. However, I am often dismayed by the lack of groundedness by my folks in social impact and tech. Our innovation economy and its digital transformation are causing countless negative externalities from gentrification placement, lack of inclusion & access to capital, leaning of jobs, digital divide, aging infrastructure with a host hazards, ageism, sexism and racism.
David introduced himself after I asked a very pointed question to a US Federal Innovation representative from Washington, DC on the Global Capacity Building panel. My question was prompted by several presentations including, Dr. David Fransen, former Canada Consul General in Los Angeles and Director of Investment Canada, currently serves as the senior advisor to the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo and senior advisor to the CEO of American Financial Network. Dr. Fransen discussed Canada’s investments in higher education, startups, small business and the commitment to equity and diversity. All the other countries on the panel were making investments into their citizens education, health, startups and small business. They all had direct funding grant programs that they discussed, and they were honest about shortcomings.
The US representatives talked about a grand vision, told us several stories and discussed exclusive convenings, meetings and conferences with heads of various sectors including philanthropy, tech, financial and government. After they were finished the Jordanian government innovation expert called bullshit on them, which quickly prompted the crowd to laugh and clap. So, of course I asked them about startup and small business grants and other government assistance like student loan relief and research grants to help us Americans be more competitive in the global marketplace of tech and innovation. I explained about the impact of high student loan debt, chicken and the egg game with capital from philanthropy and the private sector, and the real challenge getting jobs and contracts to survive in tech and innovation with high cost of living, continuous education, traveling, research, team and product development. I didn’t even add in the obvious issues of being a black woman founder in Silicon Valley. My question seem to go the way of their overall presentation, and the other panelists and the crowd was dismayed by the answer I received. The answer was again about these exclusive meetings and convenings where they were “trying to figure it out”. So, I asked how could I be a part of these convenings and received no response. When, I went to talk with them after the panel I got their cards. This is when David approached me.
He discussed with me his challenges in Miami and in the Midwest where he is from. Over the next several months we talked by video chat and we found a project to collaborate on that brought me to Miami in July of 2015. David wasted no time in getting me deeply involved in his company and his ecosystem work in Miami. During the visit he had me at Lab Miami on a panel about Civic Innovation and the local Innovation Economy almost right off my red eye flight from San Francisco, then meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and many other public and business officials. This was the start to our work.
Since July 2015, David and I have won various civic tech hacks, developed govtech solutions, wrote articles on overcoming challenges, participated in the National Science Foundation Bay Area Regional Innovation Corp., and traveled all over the United States, and even as you can see above began travel outside of the US to understand programs and funding for equitable smart cities development.
Our goals are to help our government get “Smart Cities Right for All in Society.” Smart cities must be not only be technically efficient and environmentally friendly, they must be livable, equitable and financially viable for both residents and government. As we head into Election 2016 and 2017, we seek to work with government, tech, financial and philanthropic institutions on co-designing and building tech and innovation for equitable smart cities.
Our current research includes strategies around revenue models for building and sustaining smart city infrastructure vs. just cost savings and modernization efforts. Developing P3 global frameworks for strategic partnerships to support digital public infrastructure for smart cities, in relation to increased automation and leaning of the global labor force leading to dynamically reduced government revenue to support critical infrastructure needs. Topics include cybersecurity, new business and revenue models development for public sector organizations, access to capital to build new markets, diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship to support new market growth, disruption and innovation of community and economic development, uses of AI, blockchain in fintech and smart contracts in public sector enterprise cloud and mobile. We are in the process of rapidly developing a global research network of smart cities and civic innovators that can share insights and best practices. It is important that the United States catch up to the global community on public investments into Americans. We are almost 17 years into the 21st century, and we must innovate and invest in a “New Deal” that helps Americans compete in the innovation economy and thrive and live in diverse smart cities.
David Capelli is Founder/CEO TECH Miami, a government technology research & enterprise development firm that builds scaleable, equitable and economically sustainable smart cities solutions for government. David is a University of Miami alumnus, has served for the Director at Miami International Airport, and has won several civic hackathons, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Hackathon with Carla Mays in April. He successfully completed the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Co-Hort at University of California Berkeley- Haas School of Business with Mays, where he confirmed his smart cities hypothesis. His smart cities research has extended internationally, where he is currently working with Mays on a bi-national partnership with Canada on building the equitable and financial frameworks for smart cities.
Carla Mays is Founder/CEO Mays Civic Innovation, a civic innovation advising, strategy and product development firm based in San Francisco, CA. Carla holds both a business degree from Haas School of Business and a Masters of Public Administration, a rare degree combination critical for the implementation of equitable and economically sustainable innovation in the government sector. She is currently one of two Americans and one in twelve people part of the inaugural cohort of Impact Fellows at Singularity University, where she is researching the financial and ethical framework for Smart Cities. Prior to working with Capelli, Mays advised the Honorable Sunne Wright McPeak of the California Emerging Technology Fund, a $100MM fund out of the State of California to close the digital divide in California, has won the Code for America, Harvard and Congressional hackathon, where she built international teams to solve key civic problems. Mays holds a State Assembly & State Senate award for her work, was a USGBC Fellow in 2012, and has keynoted for National Day of Civic Hacking in San Francisco. She and Capelli have been building a bi-national smart cities research and investment fund.