First of all, we want to thank all of our Austin Smart City Alliance (ASCA) members, participants, and advocates for their support this year. We are more appreciative than ever, especially in light of the year we’ve all been through. Unfortunately, many of us have been touched by loss during the global pandemic; all of us have had our personal and professional lives significantly impacted by it. We have been reawakened to the serious social injustices that remain in our country, and to the fact that we must be participants in the solutions, not just bystanders, if we are going to be the America that we aspire to. While we have seen stock market successes in certain sectors such as technology and online services, we are experiencing a deep recession in the overall economy, with many sectors having suffered losses, closures, and layoffs. Thus, your support in these challenging, stressful, tragic times has been uplifting and appreciated.
While 2020 was not a good year for cities, ASCA—with your support—had a number of important successes and milestones that have us positioned for a great 2021. In 2020, we formally rebranded from Austin CityUP to Austin Smart City Alliance to be more clearly named for what we are and what we do. We updated our bylaws to make it easier for the City of Austin (CoA) to participate more actively, and then welcomed our first CoA member to the board of directors. We executed two civic priorities workshops which generated successful projects including a technology-enabled online music event that raised money for live musicians in need during this pandemic and a contact tracing report for cities. The most recent civic priorities workshop also had two CoA leaders articulating the growing need for something like our proposed Smart Austin Innovation Lab (SAIL) project in 2021. We also completed a successful project for the Austin and Travis County wildfire prevention efforts and saw or very first project—the Affordable Housing Data Portal—finally enter production use by the City of Austin. We executed a virtual Texas Smart Cities Summit, further building the relationships between Texas largest cities for collaborative efforts in 2021 starting with the new Texas Smart Cities Series of twice-monthly online seminars (a bigger and more formal version of the ‘lunch & learns’ that Austin CityUP started). That Summit also showcased several possible projects and technologies for consideration in Austin and other Texas cities in 2021. Finally, we relaunched the ASCA Data & Architecture Committee, which is already working on the comprehensive architecture we need in 2021 to begin to integrate existing projects in a unified platform and foster new projects. So, while there is no doubt that the pandemic slowed our aggressive plans and efforts, we pushed on, achieved some wonderful successes, and positioned ourselves for an amazing 2021!
We are more excited than ever about the potential of Austin Smart City Alliance to achieve leadership in smart cities planning, projects, practices, and platforms. There is much work ahead to be sure, but we know how to work together effectively and have the foundation efforts underway for the bigger successes to come. We are in the middle of a new election for the ASCA board of directors, and the new board will inherit an organization in 2021 that has the best membership, participants, and potential for impact that our organization has ever had. We look forward to tremendous success—and learning, and fun—in our collaborative efforts in 2021. Have a wonderful holiday season and see you at our first members meeting on January 6!
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D. – Executive Director & Founder
Jessica Sager – Managing Director
Austin Smart City Alliance (formerly Austin CityUP Consortium)