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Tuscany’s smarter cities

view of Florence and the River Arno
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Florence and Prato are joining up data and reporting to let public authorities and utility companies collaborate better

Florence’s smart control room

Florence has been developing e-government since the early 2000s, with work on open data since 2010 and smart cities from 2015. It does so with a focus on sharing: “The main strategic asset of the city is sharing,” says Gianluca Vannuccini, manager of the city’s IT infrastructure development office.

Its current smart city work relies on sharing data with other organisations serving the area. The main tangible result of the work will be a physical control room for smart city work, where the city council and other organisations can share information and planning. Most of the other organisations will be publicly-owned utility providers. These organisations vary widely in size, with some serving 600 clients and some only working in Florence. “It’s a nightmare to integrate all these bodies,” says Vannuccini, but the control room aims to achieve this.

When it is open, the control room should provide the city with better management and citizens with a better service, by allowing the organisations to work together on reported location-based problems such as with roads. “By being together in a room, we want to improve the speed of solving problems in the city,” says Vannuccini, adding that such problems often require two, three or four organisations to work together.

Persuading companies to share

Prato City Council, a smaller urban municipality in Tuscany serving 195,000 people, started its smart city work three years ago. Like Florence, it is having to tackle the reality that many services are run by companies which are publicly-owned but are run as businesses. “If they have some data that can be crucial for their business and for competition, they can be very reluctant to share it,” says Paolo Boscolo, ICT infrastructure manager for the city,.

Prato has worked to build collaboration with the support of an association of utility providers in the city, aiming to convince them of the benefits of sharing information. It has also undertaken interviews with other smart city projects in the area, which fed into a plan that was then passed to the city’s politicians to set goals. The result is a focus on tourism, sharing data between utility companies and mobility problems such as roadworks.

Unlike Florence, Prato is creating a virtual control room rather than a physical one. It plans for this to go live later this year, with Boscolo seeing better mobility and less pollution as key expectations for the new system.

Italy’s public operating system

The national government set up a Digital Transformation Team in September 2016, to build an ‘operating system’ for the country’s public administrations. Prato’s Boscolo comments that these systems are obligatory for local authorities to use, and there are other centrally-imposed requirements including a standard style for websites. Both say that a forced move to the cloud is causing problems. “All our systems are currently designed to work in physical data centres,” says Vannuccini. Authorities also lack people with the skills to manage cloud services and worry about the location and legal status of cloud-held personal data. There is also a financial problem, in that a lot of IT funding will have to shift from the capital expenditure used to build data centres to the operational expenditure required for cloud services. “Full cloud migration will be a really tough challenge for public administrations,” he says.

Read through the whole article in the most recent issue of In Our View. And please do let us know hello@socitm.net about any projects you’re involved in. We’d love to hear about them and share them with members. We’ll also be at the Smart Cities Expo in Barcelona from 19-21 November.