SXSW Day 1: Philly Can Become a Smart City

Here's a recap of how Philly settled in.

L to R: Lauren Cox, Department of Commerce communications director; Mayor Jim Kenney; Archna Sahay, Philadelphia's director of entrepreneurial investment; and at SXSW 2017.

L to R: Lauren Cox, Department of Commerce communications and press relations manager; Mayor Jim Kenney; Archna Sahay, City of Philadelphia’s director of entrepreneurial investment; and Tim Wisniewski, City of Philadelphia’s chief data officer at SXSW 2017.

Philly has officially settled in at SXSW, and we can’t say we miss the northeast weather. On Friday, March 10th, our first full day of events, the Amplify Philly team, Mayor Kenney and city staffers, sat in on a panel that connected directly to some initiatives already in motion back at home.

The panel — “Smart Cities Sound Off: The Future of Transportation” — featured Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta in discussion with other panelists about the need for flexible policies to implement the infrastructure needed to build Smart Cities. Given Philadelphia’s recently awarded Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge grant, it was great to hear from other cities already successfully making progress in that area.

More specifically, Mayor Reed said that startups and tech companies should recognize the inherent differences between the private sector and government, to understand that sometimes things may move a bit slower than they’re used to, but that civic leaders are eager to work with them on innovative solutions.

“I really enjoyed hearing from Mayor Reed and some of the companies who are working on technologies to support Smart Cities,” Archna Sahay, the city’s director of entrepreneurial investment, told me. “Though I would’ve loved to hear a timeline of implementation for certain projects and the hurdles they experienced, it was encouraging to hear that companies are willing to be flexible and use in-kind services from cities rather than relying solely on capital.”

Here are some other highlights from SXSW so far:

  • Upon landing in Austin on Thursday, City staff and Mayor Kenney attended a welcome reception at the home of Austin Mayor Steve Adler. We got the chance to connect with members of Mayor Adler’s administration, staff from Amazon, and other attendees taking part in the U.S. conference of Mayors track at SXSW.

  • On Friday afternoon, Mayor Kenney participated in a “Leader to Leader” event hosted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he engaged with fellow leaders in tech, innovation and policy. They discussed cities as startups, how to enhance the workforce for a future dominated by tech and how to tackle homelessness.
  • Kenney briefly met with representatives from companies such as Ford and Samsung and talked about the future of their industries. “Being at SXSW has given me and my staff the chance to hear from cities that are doing some really creative and innovative things to improve life for their residents,” he said. We’re excited to bring these ideas back to Philly and see how we can utilize technology to improve delivery of services to our residents, particularly our most vulnerable populations. The connections we’ve made in Austin will be beneficial as we implement new strategies.”
  • The PSL and Amplify Philly teams have been preparing for upcoming Amplify Philly events.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of Kenney’s SXSW talk on Philly and current immigration policy.

Lauren Cox is the manager of communications and press relations for Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce.