Cybersecurity gaps still major problem for cities


City governments are still struggling to make security changes required to safely deploy new technologies, experts from the World Economic Forum and Deloitte warned at Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona last week.

Research conducted by the two organizations on smart city governance in 36 global cities – including London, Milan, Toronto and Melbourne – found that while different cities and institutions are embracing new models of collaboration to upgrade their policies, more needs to be done to ensure adequate security infrastructure is in place.

During a panel discussion on the state of urban governance, Jean Barroca, Global Public Sector Digital Modernization Leader, Deloitte, said:

“There are serious gaps across cities of all sizes and geographies – 60 percent of the [36] cities don’t have someone assigned to be accountable for cybersecurity.”

The firm did not reveal which of the 36 cities lacked this role, but warned the consequences could be far-reaching.

“We still lack foundational policies for sound technology deployment, and if these gaps are not addressed, stakeholders and citizens can be exposed to threats,” Barroca added.

Panel moderator, Rushi Rama, Smart Cities Lead, World Economic Forum, said: “If we look at cybersecurity in particular, we can’t assume we know all the answers straight away.

“You can’t set something in stone and assume it’s done.”

Governing smart cities

The report, Governing Smart Cities: Policy Benchmarks for Ethical and Responsible Smart City Development, provides a benchmark for cities looking to establish policies for ethical and responsible governance of their smart city programmes, and explores current practices relating to five foundational policies: ICT accessibility, privacy impact assessment, cyber accountability, digital infrastructure and open data.

 Governing Smart Cities: Policy Benchmarks for Ethical and Responsible Smart City Development report, WEF and Deloitte

Image source: World Economic Forum/Deloitte via Cities Today

The results were based on surveys and interviews with policy experts and city government officials from 36 ‘pioneer cities’, with data and insights presented in the report coming from “an assessment of detailed policy elements, rather than the high-level indicators often used in maturity frameworks”.

Other key findings included:

  • 41 percent of the cities surveyed have policies in place to embed basic accessibility requirements into their ICT procurement.
  • 25 percent of cities conduct privacy impact assessments when they deploy new technology.
  • 40 percent of cities have a ‘dig once’ policy in place to ensure that digital infrastructure is installed during street excavations and construction works.
  • 15 percent have integrated their open data portals with the wider city data infrastructure, which is a necessary step towards making a city ‘open by default’.

The report is part of Deloitte’s current work with the World Economic Forum and the G20 Global Cities Alliance that seeks to guide cities in the governance of smart technology.

Following the G20 agreement in 2019, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance was established to help cities identify and adopt foundational policies for smart city technologies.

This article was first published on Cities Today.

Image credit: Kanawat via Cities Today

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