“The Cloud” may mean very different things to different people, and has certainly been used in a number of ways that obscure its actual definition. The cloud a place to store and access files, run software, automatically back up files, virtualize data, and much more. Globally, smaller cities are becoming cloud cities using all of these capabilities to save money and improve their infrastructure and services.
Historically, it has been difficult for smaller municipalities to hire top-of-the-line IT engineers and purchase premium hardware due to budget constraints. Now they have the ability to hire offsite professionals at a fraction of the cost and are only charged for services that are actually used. This is far from the only benefit of the cloud, as citizens are able to interact with their local government and its various agencies in ways like never possible.
With a population of 337,000 according to the 2010 census, Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, has also made the transition to cloud computing. By doing so, it has vastly improved interactions between its citizens and the services provided by the city. Citizens are able to use an app to take photographs of urban problems such as abandoned vehicles, broken street lights, and downed road signs and directly upload them to city personnel. Each photo also contains geo-positioning data which allows for city workers to pinpoint and fix the problem. The city has also seen benefits from reduced software and server costs as a result of cloud usage.
Sunderland, a city of 280,000 residents in the United Kingdom, is using the cloud to reduce redundancy and IT costs, and at the same time, personalize services for its populace. Sunderland has also reached out to local businesses by partnering with them and allowing access to scalable cloud services that put excess computing capacity to work. This also earns the city income as they profit from licensing these services to local business, while they, in turn, save money.
Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, Canada has a population of around 800,000 people. By adopting the cloud model and creating specific apps for residents, problems like burned out street lights or even loose animals can be reported instantly. This forgoes the need to make a phone call, file a report with a receptionist, and wait for action to be taken. For this city, the cloud reduces these service costs and allows for tasks to be handled more efficiently with less manpower. Edmonton’s cloud solution even allows for people to reserve tee times for golf courses run by the municipality.
Each one of these cloud cities is using hosted technology as a foundation for building upon new services for citizens and civil servants alike. By leveraging several technologies such as mobile applications, analytics, and sensors, taxpayer dollars are saved and quality of life improves within the community. The cloud is proving that it can be a versatile tool enabling smaller scale municipalities to do big things and empower those who reside within them. The cloud can have a similar effect on a smaller scale with your business.
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