Time and again, privacy experts have raised concerns about “smart city” being a euphemism for surveillance state, which is part of the reason roughly one third of smart city projects fail, and almost 80% of prototypes don’t reach their desired scope. (1) Too often, these project failures occur when municipal leaders don’t take the time to engage with communities, or don’t fully commit to thinking through policy issues that are essential for fostering civic trust. 

Civic trust is both an end and the means to a successful smart city project. US Ignite understands that civic trust is central to the smart and connected communities movement. Components of civic trust like privacy and cybersecurity are not just technical considerations; these are issues that impact people – the residents and visitors in our midst.

Over the past few months, we interviewed experts and reviewed hundreds of documents to understand how local leaders defined and managed the early stages of policy maturity, network deployments, and technology adoption and integration. These conversations consistently surfaced five overlapping and interdependent policy domains: 

  1. Data Governance
  2. Cybersecurity
  3. Privacy
  4. Community Engagement
  5. Equity

These policy domains overlap and interact with one another to create an ecosystem of civic trust. 


Fig 1. Ecosystem of Civic Trust
Source: Author

Later this summer, US Ignite will unveil a new policy guide covering our research and findings. In the meantime, we are organizing a pre-launch event and presentation on May 26, 3-4 pm ET. The event will offer an exclusive sneak peek of the guide and give us an opportunity to seek further feedback from municipal leaders and experts. For more information or if you are interested in attending this virtual convening, email [email protected].

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(1) CISA. (2020, January). Trust in Smart City Systems Characteristics and Key Considerations. https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Trust%20in%20Smart%20City%20Systems%20Report_0.pdf