Like all other organisations, cities are gearing up their operations to understand what artificial intelligence (AI) means for the way they run.

City halls must weigh up what AI can bring to the delivery of public services such as increasing access to healthcare, expanding affordable housing, improving public safety, or reducing homelessness.

Fortunately for some, help is at hand. On June 27 2024, Bloomberg Philanthropies selected 23 mayors from North America, South America, and the Caribbean to join its City Data Alliance, an organisation that will provide operational and technical coaching on how to use data and AI to assess citizen needs and strengthen services across their city hall organisations.

Using AI to tackle housing and healthcare worries

Some cities are already using AI to tackle local issues. In Las Condes, Chile, the city has enhanced data collection and sharing across departments to reduce crime and improve public safety. Its systems, which support a new AI platform, have enabled the city to decrease home burglaries and commercial theft by 22% and reduce physical assaults by 60%.

In Jackson, Mississippi, new standards and staff upskilling in collecting and disaggregating data are enabling the city to address the root causes of crime and homelessness. This has helped the city create targeted programs to reduce youth violence and reach functional zero homelessness. Functional zero means that the same number of those entering homelessness exit homelessness that month.

In Recife, Brazil, a new dashboard provides the supply levels of the most in-demand medications citywide and offers a locator tool so residents can easily identify pharmacies with available stock and get the prescriptions they need. The tools benefit more than 800,000 people who rely on frequently out-of-stock prescriptions, including medication for diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the local challenge is providing affordable housing, a new citywide data strategy supplemented by local hackathons has led to the launch of an interactive affordable housing tool that connects qualified tenants in need to low-cost housing options and providers. This helped the city reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness by 40% and place more than 3,000 residents in permanent housing. New AI-based applications including a 311 system that uses image detection to route residents’ photo-based issues to the right department and digital twin projects to help redesign major roadways, examine mobility-related energy use, and monitor traffic and pedestrian movements to make streets safer.

Tackling climate change

Climate change is never far from cities’ ongoing problems, and a citywide data strategy in Montevideo, Uruguay has underpinned the city’s emergency response to a severe drought crisis.

The city’s data strategy enabled the municipality to rapidly assess the situation, identify safe well-water reserves, communicate with residents in real time, and target the delivery of more than 940,000 liters of water. This included getting over 600,000 liters of water to 4,000 people at the highest risk: pregnant women, infants under six months of age, and those with immunocompromising conditions.

The City Data Alliance project is supplemented by a service launched in October 2023 called City AI Connect, which is a global learning community and digital platform for cities to trial and advance the usage of generative AI to improve public services.

It is not just philanthropic organisations like Bloomberg that are stepping up to provide support to make cities smarter. The European Commission has set up an international finance resource to support cities participating in the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities.

Thanks to the new finance hub, cities that have already received the EU Cities Mission Label will be able to:

  • Access financial advice in cooperation with the advisory services of the European Investment Bank (EIB).
  • Structure their financial needs so they understand various ways of funding projects, including pooling of projects.
  • Introduce projects to a range of capital providers, including lenders and investors from the public and private sectors (such as philanthropic and corporate capital, as well as innovative financing like crowdfunding and sustainability-linked bonds), and support the process to deal closure.

The EIB has earmarked lending of €2bn ($2.1bn) dedicated to cities with the Cities Mission Label to support their plans to invest in energy, efficient buildings, district heating systems, renewable energy, sustainable mobility, urban renewal and regeneration, water, and social infrastructure.

So far, 33 cities have been awarded the Label of the EU Mission for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities: 10 in October 2023 and 23 in March 2024.

Such schemes are important because cities account for more than 70% of global CO₂ emissions and consume over 65% of the world’s energy. Urban action is crucial for climate mitigation and can contribute significantly to accelerating the efforts to achieve the legally binding commitment to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, as well as to the EU’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.

The evidence from these projects is that cities across the world are making the most of technologies such as AI while getting access to the requisite advice and funding to make a difference for local citizens. It means so-called smart cities are becoming more climate-resilient, data-advantaged, and financially supported just when they need that backing the most.