By Lexi Peery
BU News Service
This year at CES, companies showcased products that are trying to enhance urban systems of housing, transportation and technology — all in an effort to create smarter global cities.
But what are cities doing now to foster this kind of innovation? Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Los Angeles council member Joe Buscaino, and David Maloney of the National League of Cities shared what they are doing to bring innovators to their cities and promote their work.
In D.C. Bowser is working to spread the word of the national capital being a tech capital. Now, in her second term as mayor, Bowser said she is focused on diversifying the local D.C. economy and including the private sector.
“We’re not Silicon Valley, and we don’t want to be Silicon Valley,” Bowser said. “We want technology we want good jobs and young people to flock to us. We’re not exactly Boston either. We’re not old and cold.”
D.C. has become more attractive to large companies recently, with Amazon’s second headquarters setting up shop in nearby Arlington, Virginia. But Bowser said the city wants all kinds of companies to come to D.C.
“The truth is what we pitched for Amazon, we would pitch for the little guys. The same incentives are still available,” Bowser said.
Along with fostering innovation, Bowser noted the importance of getting people from diverse backgrounds to become more involved in the tech industry. In a space where so few women hold tech jobs — especially higher level positions — Bowser said she’s
On the other side of the country, Los Angeles is at the forefront of innovation with SpaceX and Tesla based out of the city. To continue building on the innovation Elon Musk brings to the area, Buscaino said the city is building on the public education curriculum to mold the younger generation into innovators and creators.
“Being able to partner with the education system from the local to the community to the university is an incredible strategic partnership that cities should embrace moving forward,” Buscaino said.
Bowser addressed what she wants students within her jurisdiction to gain from their education. She said it is important for youth to grow to love learning and how to be resilient and prepared to enter the tech-driven workforce.
As innovation grows, so does disruptive innovation — ride-sharing services being one of the most prominent disruptors in recent years. However, Bowser said those aren’t always detrimental for a city. Legacy companies — especially ones related to mobility — may not work for people within cities now, and Bowser said she welcomes the competition disruptive tech can bring to these companies.
Even more recent than the ride-sharing disruption, scooters and bikes are gaining traction in cities like D.C. and Los Angeles. Buscaino said he worked with a start-up dockless bike system in his district, helping the company navigate the bureaucracy of the city of Los Angeles.
“We need to embrace [disruption],” Buscaino said addressing municipal leaders in the audience. “We need to be careful as municipal leaders to not regulate the hell out of it or no one’s going to use the new technology.”