Date
16 October 2018
There is no better way to improve the lives of billions of people around the world than to improve the way cities work, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg once remarked. Photo: Reuters
There is no better way to improve the lives of billions of people around the world than to improve the way cities work, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg once remarked. Photo: Reuters

Digitalization progress hinges on top leaders’ vision

I was given a book list on big data for a translation project by a publishing house half a year ago. I was immediately drawn to a book entitled The Responsive City.

The author, Stephen Goldsmith, was a former deputy mayor of New York City, and he tells the story of how to build a responsive and smart city.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, wrote in the foreword that “there is no better way to improve the lives of billions of people around the world than to improve the way cities work. For the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s people live in cities. By 2050, 75 percent will. As more and more people move to cities, more and more of the world’s challenges—and solutions—will be concentrated there, too.

“At the center of that revolution is our growing ability to use data to improve the services that government provides. Governments have long been in the business of keeping records, and increasingly they are using those records—billions of data points— to improve everything from emergency response to education to transportation,” Bloomberg wrote.

And he added: “I have a rule of thumb: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And I brought that approach with me from the private sector to New York’s city hall. Our administration looked for ways to use data—and to collect more data— to help us better serve New Yorkers.”

I’ve never been directly involved in government work, but I realize well how important it is for a leader to think about the progress of digitalization.

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos and Alibaba’s Jack Ma, for instance, have spared no effort to push forward digitalization in their companies.

Bloomberg stressed that “cities and mayors everywhere are recognizing the powerful role data can play in bringing more transparency, accountability, and efficiency to government.”

Jack Ma once said “customers first, employees second and shareholders third.” Given this, I wonder how we should prioritize different stakeholders in a city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, former head of the data committee and vice president at Alibaba Group.

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