Response to a great email–why City Brokers would fail…

Best argument against my city broker concept came in the email yesterday. As I read it I started laughing because it is the one fatal flaw in the system. The writer simply said “Your city broker can’t work. I know it can’t work because I watch TV.” I emailed the person back and said how does watching TV prove my idea can’t work. They replied “see presidential race on TV.”

The reality of politics would make my City Broker concept weak. There would be the reduce government groups that would want to get rid of the City Broker (too much big government). There would be the socially active groups that would want to get rid of it because it would know too much. So it would become a political football. Then I realized that is the beauty of the solution. Instead of owned and operated by city or regional government, it could be operated by a co-sponsored group representing both government and non-government professionals. They are sometimes called NGO’s or non-government organizations.

There is an organization in the US Federal Government dedicated to the creation of NGO’s that start out government funded but eventually are spun out to a separate management system. NIST could sponsor the initial City Broker. This would alleviate the fears of state, local and municipal governments that the federal government was trying to take over. It removes some of the politics by having this group pay the city a fee for connections. It allows the city, region or state (or country wide) government to provide security professionals to maintain the value of the security presence. But it gets the broker away from the police football field.

In fact, this would nestle nicely into the existing Global Smart Cities challenge. Building a unified joint City or Regional Broker to be deployed. It does remove the rather unfortunate presidential politics we have every 4 years. It could exist as more like AmeriCorps, an organization focused on helping people that exists with both local and national sponsorship.

Building the Broker Corps wouldn’t be horribly hard. You could start by having colleges support the security requirements. Add that internship as a requirement for any computer degree. It would allow for rotations of people that were engaged and involved not only in the overall coding but also in the creation and management of the solution. You keep the actual implemented security separate so you don’t create 1000 back doors. College interns create the service catalog and city marketplace. If you think about the broader city marketplace concept and the small business incubation capabilities this does fit more with the modern market. From social media to Kickstarter and Indiegogo the small market where people work together on a dream fits with how the market is evolving.

The structure for fees would also be similar to the original concept. The goal of the fees would be cost recovery not profit. Fees could be set to include a monthly revenue for cities that would allow them to reduce taxes (property taxes, or the sales taxes charged). The monthly security fee would go directly to the city and the city would manage the implementation of the security structure. The broker corps would focus on delivering the many broker services.

This system would take advantage of the modern crowd funded market place as its expansion model. If the region wants to improve the City Broker, it starts a crowd funding campaign. Voters can allocate a percentage of their upcoming city taxes (whichever tax they still pay) to this new feature. You could limit the citizen digression fund to no more than 1% of any one citizen’s tax bill. The city or region (state or Country) bases its budget on 99% of the tax and Broker revenue. The 1% is then used as a functional fund by citizens to vote in new features.

It would however remove politics from the implementation of the City Broker. At the same time it would ultimately increase the integration of cities and universities into offering citizen services. It would allow for the creation of a national computer service group like AmeriCorps that would ultimately create a better broker experience and it would give control back to citizens of some of their tax dollars.

It could happen!