RealTime IT News

Edinburgh Embarks on "Smart City" Project

[London, ENGLAND] The City of Edinburgh Council announced Friday a ten-year project to transform delivery of its services, working with BT in a US $220 million strategic partnership.

Named "Edinburgh - the Smart City," the program is intended to be the most advanced of its kind in the U.K., and this, say its organizers, will give the city a vital competitive edge. Councillors in other cities will no doubt watch carefully and note any pitfalls encountered by the Scottish pioneers.

Council Leader Donald Anderson said it had already made a huge investment in information technology and was the first council in Britain to achieve Internet and e-mail access for all its schoolchildren

"This partnership is about maintaining momentum and maximizing further investment in information technology. The whole concept of the Smart City partnership is about making it quicker, simpler and easier to access public services," said Anderson.

Edinburgh's Council's embrace of the Internet is yet another indication -- if any were needed -- that beneath the wild fluctuations in speculative investment, the real usefulness of the Internet is growing steadily and inexorably.

In an initial phase, BT will spend nearly US $20 million on replacing mainframe systems, installing a new e-mail and intranet service and setting up a new voice and data network. The work will be carried out by BT's consulting and systems integration business Syntegra.

Tom Aitchison, chief executive of Edinburgh Council, pointed out the need to make some fundamental changes in the way business is conducted if the full potential of the initiative is to be realized.

"As well as being a tremendous challenge, the program provides an exciting opportunity to build on our commitment to public service with the backing of leading edge technology and a more customer-focused organization," said Aitchison.

Back in April 1998, Edinburgh Council took the decision to outsource all its ICT functions, including voice and data networks, mainframe and distributed servers, application development and desktop management. 170 staff are leaving the public sector in a transfer to BT -- which assumes responsibility for the services from the beginning of April this year.