WE MUST DETERMINE THE TRADE-OFF 

The future of SMART Cities: a Cybersecurity Perspective

Dr. Jonathan Reichental, CIO & CTO for the City of Palo Alto

  • Dr. Reichental is the CIO & CTO for the City of Palo Alto. He is a multiple award-winning technology leader, whose 30-year career has spanned both the private and public sectors.
  • In 2017, he was named one of the top 100 CIOs in the world. And in 2016 he was named one of the top 20 most influential CIO’s, in the United States.

Is an individual prepared to give up some privacy for a higher value return? Perhaps not, but it may make sense to provide it as a choice. It’s what most of us do when we use the multitude of “free” online services. We’re giving something away to get something back. It’s likely that privacy will not be a binary choice in the future. Some level of privacy loss is a price that living in the 21st century brings. Do you want complete privacy and less safety or a little less privacy and more safety? We are faced with complex decisions ahead. Of course, we must work hard to ensure that ethical protections exist.

So, Jonathan, how would you describe the shift between a leading digital city to a Smart City?

When I first joined the city of Palo Alto in 2011, we were looking for a bold technology goal. One that would provide enormous value to our internal teams and for our community. With a great need to digitize many of the analog internal and external processes, we put the emphasis on creating a more digital city. As the years have passed, technology has moved to the center of all activities and so digitization becomes one of many areas where urban innovation can be applied. The smart city movement encompasses digitization and a lot more: such as sensor networks, high speed Internet, sustainability, and more.

And how do we go about that here in Stockholm with our Stockholm Smart City movement?
Any suggestions?

This is a big question. My summary answer is that it begins with leadership at every level; top-down, bottom-up. You need committed leaders who are prepared to push for change, to inspire, and to take risks. It will require investment of time and money and partnerships will be essential.

Obviously, it is our governments that is the key in any city movements, but what does it really mean to digitize governments?

Imagine all the ways each of us interacts with different types of government whether it is city, county, state, or national. Governments must provide hundreds, and often thousands, of services. These services, when done in an analog way, are expensive, take a long time, and are error prone.
Imagine the same experiences but through really high quality websites or on apps. Once digitized, and of course not everything can be digitized, the services will be more convenient, at much lower cost, and errors are reduced. Now factor in some artificial intelligence, and routine requests can be delivered without human intervention. Digitization has many benefits and is a core driven of change in government today.

What are the new issues that cities and governments are facing now that weren’t much of a headache 7 years ago when you started as the CTO & CIO of the City of Palo Alto?

In some ways seven years is a long time. But it can also be viewed as a short period. Cities do continue to work on many of the same issues, but they are becoming even more urgent. For example, transportation congestion is getting worse. The climate crisis has become even more urgent. Expectations of local governments have increased, in that communities expect high quality online and app experiences to support city services, as they should! Cyber security is getting more complex, as more technology and data is used and attack vectors increase.
Finally, new technology such as the Internet of Things, drones, and distributed ledgers are putting pressure on city IT. Teams need to be more informed and have greater skill depth.

Can you identify some specific patterns and techniques used to create and increase information security in the society? Something that you witnessed yourself?

I know it’s a cliche, but in my experience education and awareness are powerful if conducted frequently, and in many forms to appeal to different learning styles. In the United States, each year October is cyber security month. At the City of Palo Alto we have a full month of cyber-related events and education. Dedicating a full month and then having programs across the rest of the year is very effective.

Urbanization has enabled so many of us to rise to a higher quality of life, and United Nations claims that 3 million people per week around the globe move into cities.
But this urbanization has also created unprecedented problems that are quickly undermining the benefits it once created. Could you explain more about these problems and what can we do to solve these issues?

I can’t answer this properly in a few words. It requires extensive unpacking and discussion. We’re entering a fourth industrial revolution. There will be winners and losers. We need to ensure that society has answers for reducing and supporting those who don’t prosper. That’s our moral responsibility. At the end of the day, all that matter are people. Everything we do with technology and all the advances we make, it must begin and end for the benefit of people.

How do you approach the urban areas critical infrastructure security?

We consider security, both cyber and physical, in each of our projects. We apply a comprehensive set of processes and requirements. This is an area where we all must prioritize and invest. The risks are far too high.

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