Every now and then, a tidal wave sweeps over the information technology industry. Sometimes you can see the wave coming from a distance and prepare for it.
The smart city technology movement is gathering energy and gaining momentum. Soon, it will bring a new era of transformational change. The need for smart city tech isn't driven by marketing - it's a response to deep shifts in global population trends.
Although cities occupy only 2 percent of the Earth's surface, they are home to 54 percent of the world's population. By 2050, 66 percent of the global population will live in cities.
Thanks to mobile phones, global communications networks and the Internet, virtually every city in the world depends to some degree on information technology to support city services such as mass transit, sanitation and public safety.
Cities see the value in leveraging the power of IT to elevate efficiency, manage costs and improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors. They also understand that IT now plays a critical role in fighting crime, reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.
What happens if Amazon decides to raise prices or limit usage? It would be easy to think that you could easily switch to one of Amazon's competitors, but switching horses in midstream isn't easy, especially when mission-critical data is involved.
Today, many cities are in the midst of discovering what most corporations discovered 20 years ago: You need an IT department to manage IT services.
Many large cities already have CIOs. But most cities are still evolving their approaches to managing IT. Some of the world's most powerful tech vendors have already targeted cities as huge potential markets for IT products and services. But genuine IT leadership is often missing from the equation.
From my perspective, the smart city movement should be more than a new market for big tech vendors. I'm happy that vendors will be finding new opportunities for making money, but what's more important is making sure that new technology bought by cities delivers real value to citizens.
I see the smart city movement as a huge opportunity for CIOs and senior IT leaders to capitalize on their unique experience and expertise to help cities develop tools and techniques for managing technology wisely and effectively.
There's no escaping from the fact that cities have played a dominant role in the development of the modern global economy. Let's make sure that our cities have the best technologies and the best IT leadership.
The CIO/IT leadership community should step up and offer its collective wisdom to the smart city movement. Sooner or later, most of us will be living in cities. Here's a great chance for us to lead, reimagine and reinvent the modern city.