Many city governments in the US and elsewhere are torn when it comes to innovation. On the one hand, constituents live in a world that increasingly demands flexibility, interaction, and iteration, and governments want to be seen as responsive to new ideas and services. On the other, the “move fast and break things” ethos of many technology companies seems wildly inappropriate when public health and safety are at stake.
Cities are bound by regulatory processes developed decades ago and designed for predictability, stability, and protection — not for speed, ease, and invention. In addition, regulations have accumulated over time to respond to the urgent concerns of years or even decades ago, which might be irrelevant today.
The real work for city leaders today is to create, not just new rules, but new ways of writing and adjusting regulations that better fit the dynamism and pace of change of cities themselves. Regulations are a big part of the city’s operating system, and, like an operating system, they should be data-informed, continually tweaked, and regularly refreshed to respond to bugs and new use cases.
This site has recommendations and case studies in four areas where technology is both pushing up against the limits of the current regulatory system and offering new tools to make enforcing and following rules easier: food safety, permitting, procurement, and transportation.