Meet the Smart Cities Summit speakers, part 2: Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s Director of Digital Inclusion
Smart Cities Summit is the go-to event for the government and technology decision-makers creating America’s future smart cities.
In the lead-up to the October 31- November 1 conference in Atlanta, American City and County has the exclusive opportunity to discuss leading projects that will be highlighted by key speakers. This is the opportunity to preview what they will be championing at the conference this year.
Through use cases, partnership case studies and panels, Smart Cities Summit will address how new innovations are transforming infrastructure, public private partnerships, procurement, transportation and many other verticals within the smart cities space. This year there will be a greater focus on bringing connectivity to the heart of smart cities, an area where local authorities can save costs of future pilot projects long term and add real value for citizens.
The second speaker in this 3-part series is Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s Director of Digital Inclusion. In his role, Joshua is responsible for creating a sustainable digital inclusion strategy to help bridge Detroit’s vast digital divide. Joshua’s work intersects with public policy, telecommunications and community engagement.
Tell us about your role.
I have been the Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit since February of this year. This is a first for the City of Detroit. My role exists at the intersection of telecommunication policy, community engagement, strategic planning and advocacy.
Why is digital inclusion (DI) so important for the city?
According to the American Community Survey, Detroit is considered the least connected City in America. As we witness the unprecedented digitization of society, we need to be in the position to ensure our residents are not left behind and further disenfranchised.
How are you bringing DI to the forefront of city initiatives going forward?
Because I’m new in my role, and the concept of digital inclusion is still fresh to many municipal governments throughout America, I have found success in building strategic departmental alliances where a digital inclusion conversation makes immediate sense. For example, the city is leading planning efforts for the 2020 Census. Because the Census will be conducted online, the digital divide has clear implications on how we conduct efforts to ensure Detroit residents are counted. Aside from an episodic effort in the Census, we are also having conversations with our Workforce Development Department. Aligning workforce with our efforts allows for us to get a better pulse on those who are underemployed/unemployed due to challenges related to internet access, digital literacy and the lack of personal computers.
What has been the most important lesson?
Building sound relationships supersedes any strategy. When I arrived to Detroit, I immediately had an idea on how I envisioned tackling the digital divide. I have years of research and success in building and implementing programs within several capacities; however, in this case, because I was a stranger, it did not matter what I had planned. I needed to gain a better understanding of the landscape, recognize the nuances of municipal government and the larger community, and then take that knowledge and integrate my learnings into developing a Detroit-focused model.
What advice would you give to the cities just starting out on their smart city journey?
Start with digital inclusion. So many cities want to rush and build and proclaim they are “smart.” There is an old phrase, all of us are smarter than one of us. If we do not have successful pathways for residents to engage with technology that could enhance both city services and their personal lives, we are shooting ourselves in the foot as far as the future of cities. My advice is to remain focused on the future and ways we can leverage data driven decision-making where applicable, but to simultaneously remain cognizant of the persistent barriers routinely unaddressed by decision makers.
Why are conferences like Smart Cities Summit so important?
Conferences like these are important because they allow for peer learning in an organic way. Also, these conferences shed light on practices that could be slightly outside of the purview of other cities.
Whether you work in the public or private sector, Smart Cities Summit will help you ﬁnd ways to positively utilize emerging technology and create the future of smart cities.
American City & County’s exclusive 20% off code is ACC20. Use this link to go to the registration page and your discount will be automatically applied.
To read Part 1 of the Meet the Smart Cities Summit speakers, Jan Bradley, Director and Chief Information Technology Officer at the City of Calgary., click here.