Smart cities beyond technology:

governance, strategy and business models

At Rebel we see this quite often: ‘traditional’ planning, implementation and operations/maintenance of urban infrastructure and services is characterized by several limitations:

    • Lack of ‘natural’ integration across functional and sectoral silos of city policy, planning and ongoing management;
    • Absence of high-quality data on historic and ongoing performance and circumstances of urban assets and services;
    • Often, absence of sufficient information analytics capabilities to guide planning and decision-making; and
    •  Limited interaction and therefore lack of a high-quality feedback loop between urban infrastructure assets and services and citizens, businesses and other stakeholders who use them and benefit from them.

As a result, data and information remain static, locked in individual silos.

Service and investment planning is characterized by a lack of focus on customer (citizen/business/civils society) focus and takes place without a customer feedback loop. Governments undertake developments inside a ‘closed system’, without externally led- and/or contributed-innovation. There is no integration or innovation across silos, and the static nature of these silos inhibits integrative ‘deep’ change.

Recent essential technology advances offer opportunities for addressing these limitations:


Internet of Things

The emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) technology enables data communication between, and remote control of a wide range of previously disconnected infrastructures and systems.

Cellular Communications

Rapid strides in cellular communications (with countries rolling out a next generation of technology improvements – most recently 5g – at intervals of several years at most) facilitate IoT connectivity ranging from ‘thin’ and infrequent data communication to 100% ‘live’ data feeds.


AI and Machine Learning

AI and Machine Learning software allows the cross-analysis of vast amounts of data, facilitating either instant machine-driven decision-making to ongoing circumstances, or expansive analysis of complex policy and planning problems


Online Social Media

In parallel, online social media and networks create virtual communities and networks through which individuals, businesses and other organizations communicate directly and continuously.

These opportunity’s offers ways to unlock data and information from individual silos.

This will allow us to organize better the structure and governance of data, services and ‘customer’ delivery, and to develop a veritable marketplace for data and information that enable innovate new service applications and solutions. All of which results in a substantial potential for step-change improvements in urban services and infrastructure planning, implementation and management.

Seizing on the opportunity to use these innovations in policy and implementation, city governments will be able to make improvements that result in smarter, more integrated and more interactive urban infrastructure and services – and therefore, better cities. Questions that come up include:


“More precisely, what is a ‘Smart City project’?”
 “How to make the most of all these promises of the perfect Smart City?”
 “What’s the best way to procure and contract, what role for Public-Private Partnerships?”


But too often these questions are left unanswered

And government proceed according to a relatively narrow, technology-oriented perspective. Often, this results in plans that never leave the drawing board, in the implementation of pilots only (after which initiatives fade into silence), or on the other side of the extreme, excessively scoped white-elephant ICT projects which end up underutilized or never reach completion.

In response to these challenges

At Rebel we support overall strategy development, ecosystem governance thinking (optimization of roles, risks and balancing of commercial and social interests), use case validation, business model analysis and procurement/tendering (including Public-Private Partnership approaches) for Smart City strategy, policy, program and projects. Keeping in mind that Smart City efforts should always be underpinned by benefit to citizens, value for money of costs and time spent, and overall positive contributions to the future of our cities and communities.