City officials are increasingly working to leverage advanced information and communication technologies to bring their smart city dreams to life. Investments are being targeted to achieve everything from enhancing local decisionmaking through big data analysis, to improving the efficiency of government services, to facilitating the inclusion of all residents in local governance.

While ranging in focus and funding levels, smart city initiatives are popping up in small communities like Caldwell, Idaho, and large metropolitan regions like New York City. However, these initiatives have run into significant challenges, resulting in frequent failures and false starts. Surprisingly, we have found that such challenges don't solely relate to the complexity of the technology itself, but rather the longstanding and persistent obstacles associated with navigating the incredibly complex social and organizational processes that underpin the smart city environment. In other words, to develop smart cities, what's needed is not more or better technology, but social change and improved organizing methods.

Some cities have developed frameworks to overcome these organizational challenges. But many continue to struggle, causing smart city initiatives to lose momentum, shut down, or significantly restructure. As a result, these cities have lost time, money and their residents' trust.

As part of a recent RAND study on smart cities initiatives, our research team spoke with city officials like chief digital officers, chief data officers, and directors of performance management from across the United States. In these interviews, city officials rarely pointed to technological challenges as being their biggest hurdle. Instead, they repeatedly described struggling to navigate tensions between the companies that develop and sell the technology, city residents who interact with it, and government officials that procure, deploy and manage the technology.

Read the full article about technology in smart cities by Jared Mondschein, Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, Andreas Kuehn at RAND Corporation.