Blog by Ellen Hwang, Program Manager for Innovation Management, Office of Innovation and Technology

What do an economist, a dean, an entrepreneur, and a health practitioner have in common?

They believe in Philadelphia being a city that can drive inclusive innovation!

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, a panel of Smart City experts talked about the concept of smart cities and how Philadelphia fits into that story. Led by Shelton Mercer of Benjamin’s Desk, the conversation laid out foundations for what makes a city truly smart.

Members of the panel included:

  • Lee Huang, eConsult Solutions
  • Yi Deng, Dean, College of Computing & Informatics, Drexel University
  • Aniyia Williams, Tinsel and Black and Brown Founders Project
  • Norma Padron, Jefferson University

Their verdict? A truly smart city is a community that values diversity, inclusion, and opportunity: diversity in tech, inclusion in adoption of tech, and opportunity for all Philadelphians to benefit from that technology.

This panel was part of a comprehensive workshop kicking off the City’s roadmap project, engaging a diverse range of stakeholders to initiate the planning process. From government startups to civic organizations to research universities to large corporations to small businesses, over 190 participants came together to discuss what Philadelphia as a smart city could look like and how, practically, we get there.

Mayor Kenney speaks at the far end of the room in front of a digital screen. There are dozens of people seated listening to him in a space that looks industrial with exposed duct work and steel lights hanging from the ceiling.
“We’re seeking the collaboration of the diverse stakeholders in the room,” Mayor Kenney told attendees, “because we value – and need – your insight.” (Photo by Samantha Madera.)

The day started with opening remarks from Charles Brennan, the City’s Chief Information Officer leading the SmartCityPHL initiative, a keynote by David Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation, and a warm welcome by Mayor Jim Kenney.

Interwoven throughout each of their speeches was the theme of collaboration and inclusion: how Philadelphia must come together as a community and must consider the positive impact that technology can have on its constituents.

This theme continued throughout the day as breakout sessions engaged participants in topics such as a smart affordable housing development, the future of public safety, and improving government efficiency.

Jon Gosier from Southbox, a Philadelphia-based tech investment fund, closed out the day talking about investment needs and strategies together with a panel of experts and thinkers, including:

  • Allan Domb, Councilmember-at-Large, Philadelphia City Council
  • Ann Froble, Cisco
  • Michael Borda, University of Pennsylvania
  • Bryan Witkowski, machineQ at Comcast

The big takeaways?  Sound partnerships, investment in workforce development and talent retention, and innovative funding strategies are going to be key to making SmartCityPHL possible in Philadelphia.

What is SmartCityPHL?

Earlier this year, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology established SmartCityPHL, a strategic initiative developing a comprehensive plan to guide investment and implementation of smart technology for government service innovation. This initiative led to Philadelphia’s selection as one of five U.S. cities to host this readiness workshop by the Smart Cities Council.

So, what’s next?  The Office of Innovation and Technology will be working with PwC’s US Advisory group to continue the conversation with the Philadelphia community to develop its roadmap.  The roadmap will identify the City’s Smart City priorities and projects over the next few months.  Stay tuned!

You can find for a full overview of the event, and list of speakers, online.