Cities around the world are undergoing a dramatic digital transformation. They are using technology products and smart solutions in creative ways: to allow people to report issues like potholes and broken traffic lights; to create direct and personalized communication channels with residents; to facilitate digital or contactless payments for city services. But according to global studies by Smart Cities for All, the continuous technology innovation driving this digital transformation is not benefiting everyone. The new Inclusive Innovation Playbook will help cities, their partners, and stakeholders address that challenge by defining inclusion of everyone as part of the technology innovation process and integrate it into urban innovation ecosystems (e.g. incubators, accelerators, investors, etc.).
“Smart Cities technology can transform urban environments to be a better place for all people to live, work and play. It’s critical that we work in unison to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that develops technology that’s inclusive and accessible to all. It’s an honor for us at AT&T to offer this resource to cities. We strive to be a catalyst in making inclusive urban environments a reality,” said Suzanne Montgomery, Chief Accessibility Officer at AT&T.
According to a Smart Cities for All survey, 60% of global experts say Smart Cities are failing persons with disabilities today. Just 18% of experts report that the Smart City initiatives familiar to them use international standards for ICT accessibility. Today’s innovation ecosystems are not well prepared to improve on the existing digital divide for persons with disabilities and are likely making it worse. In developing the new Playbook, Smart Cities for All surveyed more than 175 entrepreneurs in technology incubators worldwide. Less than half, just 43%, of entrepreneurs had a strong understanding of accessibility and inclusion in their own product development and user experience (UX) design processes. Fully a third of the entrepreneurs surveyed worldwide were not sure if persons with disabilities could even use the technology products and solutions they are currently developing.
“In New York City, we believe that everyone should have fair access and benefit equally from new technology solutions, which is why we put people at the center of tech and innovation,” said Alby Bocanegra, Interim Chief Technology Officer, City of New York. “The Inclusive Innovation Playbook is a guide that all cities should embrace as they consider adopting smart city solutions and making sure that no one is left behind.”
The Smart Cities for All Inclusive Innovation Playbook lays out five “plays” and related actions that cities can take to infuse incubators, accelerators, and the innovation process with a commitment to inclusion and accessibility. The five urban innovation inclusion plays focus on a city’s people, economic assets, infrastructure, networking, and enabling public policies. The Playbook draws from successful practices and insights from the private sector, government, and civil society. Cities that want to ensure their innovation ecosystem is inclusive and results in products, services, and solutions that are more accessible and work for everyone can draw from among all five of the inclusive innovation “plays”.
“At G3ict and Smart Cities for All, we believe that inclusive innovation leads to technology products and smart solutions that work better for everyone, including persons with disabilities and older persons,” said James Thurston, Vice President at G3ict and Managing Director of Smart Cities for all. “Closing the digital divide for the disability and aging communities in Smart Cities will require infusing inclusion, accessibility, and universal design into the innovation of new technology solutions at a scale much greater than is happening today. We think this new Playbook will help cities and their partners do exactly that.”
The Inclusive Innovation Playbook builds on pioneering work by AT&T. In their 2018 White Paper, Smart Cities for All: A Vision for an Inclusive, Accessible Urban Future, AT&T and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) outlined four keys to success to help ensure that Smart Cities are also inclusive cities. They called for Smart Cities around the world to ensure that design for inclusion be an integral aspect of entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems.
“Every day we’re seeing the power of smart cities solutions to transform communities, improve sustainability, and enhance the quality of life for citizens,” said Chris Penrose, President of IoT Solutions at AT&T. “From smart lighting to public safety, this new resource for smart cities will help us join together to build a more inclusive, scalable smart cities ecosystem.”
The Playbook was designed to support a range of people working across multiple roles in urban innovation ecosystems, including entrepreneurs, developers who design technology and smart city solutions, policy makers, incubator and accelerator program managers, investors in technology innovation, civic hacking community leaders, and neighborhood activists. It will also be of interest to technology suppliers to Smart Cities, Smart City program managers, academics researching innovation and Smart Cities, and disability organizations and advocates working to make innovation and Smart Cities more inclusive. Recognizing the broad interest of the new tool, G3ict and World Enabled, two nonprofits with a history of leadership in inclusive and accessible design, launched the new report at an event in Washington, D.C with guests from governments, disability organizations, and industry.
Download the new Inclusive Innovation Playbook.