On July 21, GMA partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), ACCG, Georgia Centers of Innovation, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), to host local governments, government associations, and industry and academic leaders for a Smart Communities Workshop. The Smart Communities Workshop is the first step in a larger initiative to launch a Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, a Georgia-wide peer-network and technical assistance program to support smart community projects with local governments.
This half-day workshop, which took place at ARC’s home office, allowed attendees to discuss the application of advanced technology for local government. A total of 70 participants—including 20 city governments and eight county governments—explored how real-time sensors, automated systems and other intelligent infrastructures can be applied beyond major metropolitan governments and dense urban areas.
Donalsonville Mayor Dan Ponder shared the importance of workshops of this magnitude with participants, “If there was such a thing as a rural smart city today, it would be out-of-date tomorrow.” With regards to the opportunity provided by the Smart Communities Workshop, Ponder continued, “This is a process where we can at least participate at the front-end of technology changes versus being the last one.”
The workshop also spurred conversation surrounding a variety of smart community development initiatives, and featured a keynote from Sokwoo Rhee, associate director of Cyber-Physical Systems Program for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Rhee shared best practices and lessons from NIST’s Global Cities Teams Challenge. Participants also heard from a panel of Georgia-based thought-leaders, Mayor Ponder, Gainesville Police Lt. Keith Lingerfelt, Georgia Tech Professor Ellen Dunham-Jones, and Gwinnett County CIO Abe Kani. Panelists touched on topics from citizen participation to public-private partnerships to deployment strategies.
Following the speakers were a series of small group activities, in which local government participants brainstormed proposals to pressing local issues and opportunities. Employing methods from design thinking, participants were led through a discovery process that yeilded important insights into how to structure the Smart Communities Challenge.