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Citizens are the customers of city

We have high expectations from the companies who offer us products and services. We expect high quality services, near-instant delivery, and customer service on just about every communication channel. Our expectations from public services are nearing the same standards.

In 2008, the global urban population crossed the symbolic barrier, with more than 50% of the global population living in cities. Urban migrations are increasing every year, and we expect that, in the developed world, more than 85% of us will live in cities by 2050. Cities are transforming from regional communities into complex systems, facing increasing difficulties to provide their populace with adequate services, and ensure a sufficient quality of life.

Social evolution is also introducing changes to how we define the concepts of cities and mayors who manage them. We’re abandoning the concept of rural communities which largely self-govern and resolve their issues communally, and focusing on cities, which operate much like corporations do. They have directors, management boards, significant budgets and regular 5-year shareholder (voter) meetings, which extend the mandate of the management, or replace it. The profile of successful mayors around the world is also changing from a primarily political profile, leaning in favor of the managerial leaders. The election season topics and platforms increasingly resemble strategic business plans, including project priority lists, and the presentation of mayors as persons, who approach government quite similarly to how successful CEOs approach the management of their companies. The global metropolises are less and less likely to elect individuals, who haven’t been tested and vetted as successful managers in the private sector before vying for the highest city offices.

If the city is increasingly similar to a corporation, we must ask ourselves, who are the customers of the organization, what are their service expectations, and how are the services provided to them? The role of the customers, of course, is primarily played by the inhabitants of the city. Other customers include tourists considering visiting the city on their next holiday, as well as the inhabitants of neighboring cities, who are visiting over a weekend. Finally, the customers include investors and businesses who are considering establishing their offices, manufacturing, or retail presences in the city.

The city must provide all of these vastly different interest groups with the services they expect. Although their expectations differ, they mostly revolve around the pillars of the urban society, which haven’t changed significantly since the Roman times. The city must offer all of its stakeholders a sufficient standard of development of all core pillars:

  • Real estate and business – an overview over the wealth of the community, sufficient accessibility of real estate, maintenance of a favorable business environment, strategic growth and development.

  • Energy and water – optimizations of energy use, potable water management, wastewater management.

  • Mobility – traffic management, public transport quality, biking and walking path infrastructure, cargo and business accessibility.

  • Customer communication – collection of citizen requirements, bilateral communication regarding necessary improvements and changes, transparency of operation, development plan transparency.

Large cities are already managed much like corporations, and the increased accessibility of technology is making some of their best practices available to the smaller urban centers. In addition, cities of all sizes are facing constant growth and development. Of course, a city can’t go bust like a company can if it fails to provide its citizens with adequate public services and a development perspective. It can, however, collapse into a city which continuously loses the most educated inhabitants, profitable businesses, and into a city which tourists find less and less appealing as a destination.

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