I’m going to start with the assumption that you’re familiar with the concept of “intelligent cities.” (If this sounds like babble, ICs rely on data and technology to improve and streamline a more social, data-driven decision-making process. For more: look here, there and everywhere.) In my opinion, the intelligent cities movement offers an excellent opportunity for our beloved Program on Urban Studies to leverage its connections to this tech-crazed campus and region to help shape the ICs of the future and build its own reputation.
Today, no true IC exists. Data is being gathered and utilized in innovative ways in cities around the globe, from participatory budgeting in Icapui, Brazil to collecting ideas from New York City’s front-line employees, but efforts are neither holistic nor nuanced. The IC movement is in its infancy. If the Program on Urban Studies is to corner the market on intelligent cities within the Stanford campus, now is the time to act.
You may be asking yourself why I feel the incorporation of intelligent cities into the Program will be a good thing. I have two primary justifications for this. First off, it will complement the sociological focus of the major in a quantitative, tech-oriented way that will make graduates more valuable to employers – especially cities. The second reason, which follows from the first but requires some time: building city leadership with technical talent. IBM is currently awarding $50 million to cities through its Smarter Cities Challenge to encourage civic leaders to engage with the world of tech, and a focus on IC in the Program would be an even stronger stimulus for bringing these two worlds together. For itself, its students and the cities of the world, the Program ought to seize the IC opportunity.
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you’re at least open to entertaining the idea of incorporating IC in the curriculum. But what could this incorporation look like? At its most minor, it could imply adding a couple statistics and computer science courses to the required set of skills classes and searching for more linkages with relevant departments here at Stanford. At the extreme end, it could grow into its own concentration within the Program.
Discussions need to be had on this topic, and soon. The IC movement is rapidly expanding, and the Program is situated in an indisputably ideal manner to explore the potential of this avenue of education. Professors and students, advisers and friends, this Program is ours and we can make it so much more.