Platform thinking breaks policy paralysis

Thinking of the city as a platform can help cities break through policy paralysis and make exciting things happen, James Noakes, Assistant Mayor, City of Liverpool, said on a recent TM Forum webinar.

He noted the ‘push and pull’ factors that cities face and can leave them in a state of ‘policy paralysis’ where they cannot make progress. Cities are pushed by the need to be more efficient and to address complex social issues, such as ageing populations, climate, congestion, etc. They are also pulled by the pace of change in technology and citizens’ demands that they keep up with and use that technology.

“Some of it we don’t understand and some of it we’re unsure what the right option is,” Noakes admitted. “We need to do more, better, faster and we need better insight. Yet, when we are looking at change, we also need to ensure there’s a competent business case alongside accessible business models.”

How the magic happens

Perhaps we need to start thinking of the city in a different way, he said. “Perhaps we need to see it as a canvas upon which we can do good, beautiful things, rather than a machine-like complex model that requires technical tweaks.”

The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in between and “looking at it like a platform might be helpful,” he said.

When balancing the challenges and role of the city, the opportunities of technology and innovation and the central focus on the citizen, Noakes noted how a platform approach can help cities understand “how the magic happens in the middle and what that magic looks like.”

Liverpool is at the start of its journey building the city as a platform – “we’ve long held ambitions that Liverpool should be a place where people can experiment and treat the city as a place to innovate,” he said.

It is using TM Forum tools including the City as a Platform Manifesto, CurateFx and proof-of-concept Catalyst projects to take a structured approach.

  • The City as a Platform Manifesto provides 10 foundational principles for succeeding with city platforms.
  • CurateFx enables cities and businesses to visualize key platform business capabilities, corresponding technical capabilities and the Open APIs needed to implement them.
  • Proof-of-concept Catalyst projects enable cities and industry to work together on clear real-world problems and develop solutions in three-to-six month sprints.

The structure these tools provide is essential, Noakes added. “We deal with public finances and we govern with consent – we don’t want chaos and inefficiency.”

Watch the full webinar here including details of the latest smart city Catalyst challenges you can take part in.



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    Sarah is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in new technologies and how they impact our everyday lives.

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