3 Steps to Becoming a Smart City

Visionary engineers, designers, and thinkers are crafting a plan for the city of tomorrow, a smart city that truly benefits the people living in it. In order for this vision to become a reality, local governments will need to keep up with rapidly evolving technology.

A recent McKinsey whitepaper explored how smart cities are offering digital solutions for a more livable future. The study examined the specific ways that data and technology can be used to improve quality of life.

McKinsey’s research found that eight touch points were most critical for improving quality of life: mobility, security, healthcare, energy, water, waste, economic development and housing, and engagement and community. Using smart applications to improve access and efficiency in each domain correlated with improved quality of life for residents.

Paperless document processing was identified as a major component of the smart city across multiple touch points. Even more, it’s achievable right now, and it’s critical for ensuring that local government works at the pace of the modern world.

Here’s how going paperless can directly influence the city of the future, today:

Economic Development and Housing

Hundreds of governments are using SeamlessDocs to digitize their licensing and permitting process. Doing so boosts economic development and improves housing outcomes. It can even help save the environment.

Streamlining the permitting process helps residents get to work making property improvements that benefit themselves and the environment, such as solar panels, green landscaping and eco-friendly roofing. For home builders, it means starting projects faster than ever before, providing more housing where it’s needed most.

Paperless processing can also lower the barrier to entry for economic development and housing initiatives, like applying for tax credits for green upgrades. Making historically complex and arduous public service applications easy is another key benefit of automation — take, for example, how Boston, MA uses SeamlessDocs to open up housing lotteries to low-income residents.

Going paperless also encourages entrepreneurship and small business growth. For example, Tonganoxie, KS digitized their business license application, generating hundreds of digital submissions and allowing businesspeople to get licensed faster.

Engagement and Community

How do you know what’s working and what isn’t? Technology has provided a portal for people to give feedback on their experiences with products and services. Governments can benefit from this kind of direct feedback as well.

Some cities are already using digital surveys to offer better services for their people. Until SeamlessDocs came along, Charlotte, NC didn’t have an easy way to collect citizen feedback on what to highlight across its digital properties. A person looking to voice their opinion could send an email and hope for the best, or drop by a public meeting and wait for their turn to speak.

To streamline this process, Charlotte used SeamlessDocs to run their “The Queens 2017” survey to collect data from citizens about what types of digital assets the government should be creating. This data was used to create a more representative digital experience.

Digitized government services improve engagement by making it easier to connect, especially with people who have disabilities. Making your city website ADA compliant and fully adjustable to meet Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 standards helps more people stay engaged with their communities.


Smart cities also use technology to streamline law enforcement initiatives, which can help make cities safer — and make the bureaucracy of the justice system easier to navigate.

Automated records processing helps prevent people who paid tickets from getting arrested needlessly, and helps ensure that people don’t get lost in the system. Bartholemew County, Indiana is currently using SeamlessDocs to digitize their warrants process, allowing them to process court filings and serve suspects faster. This speed can give officers the critical minutes they need to make an arrest.

Paperless initiatives in security, economic development and housing, and engagement and community are helping drive more efficient, responsive, and sustainable cities. As technology continues to transform the way people live their day-to-day lives, it becomes more imperative that cities do what they can to keep up.

Jonathon Ende is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Jana Choi

I love this article because it explains why a strong public sector is so important for citizens and thus the development of a strong private sector and economy. Thanks for posting!