City planners today have the daunting task of managing ever-expanding cities with burgeoning populations that put heavy demands on infrastructure. Stakeholders are impatient as basic civic facilities rarely meet expectations. How can COBIT 5, a business framework for governance and management of IT, help to meet the stakeholders’ needs?
Citizens are the major stakeholders. Their needs are very specific. As stated by Aristotle, “A city should be built to give its inhabitants security and happiness.” City planners have tried to achieve this objective by deploying various techniques. Industrialization has put additional pressures on city planners. A number of systems have been developed to meet the expectations of citizens. At a minimum, modern cities require the following fully functioning systems:
- Water supply systems
- Power supply systems
- Transportation and traffic management systems
- Communication systems
- Sewerage and drainage systems
- Educational institutions
- Police and fire departments
- Recreational facilities
- Disaster management systems
- Information management systems
City planners have to ensure that the following are completed:
- An adequate infrastructure is built to meet current and future needs.
- The infrastructure is maintained in good working condition.
- The infrastructure is monitored for efficient operation.
The process of modernization involves adoption of IT. The following provides a brief look at the possibilities offered by the use of IT in two core areas. Similar possibilities exist for practically all the areas.
Efficiency in Power Supply Systems
Major stakeholders for the power supply system are the citizens who want an uninterrupted, stable power supply at a reasonable cost and the municipal planners who have to meet this need by creating, maintaining and monitoring the infrastructure that supplies the power.
Municipalities are interested in efficient power distribution with minimum transmission and distribution losses, as well as a minimum number of breakdowns. They are also interested in efficient billing and collection of revenues. The IT systems that will achieve the level of efficiency expected by municipalities will involve investment in a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to remotely monitor, coordinate, control and operate distribution components, equipment and devices in real-time mode from a secure central location. The data acquisition, data analysis and planning are also central functions. The city planners will also require information systems such as spot billing at consumer premises by handheld computer; an integrated metering, billing and collection system; an energy audit and accounting system; a network management system; a consumer information system; and a trouble-call management system. The systems for load forecasting and management, material movement, planning and control are also necessary.
Monitoring to Improve Traffic Management System
Chaotic traffic conditions are an issue in most urban cities worldwide. As the number of vehicles increases, daily commute times, the number of road accidents and the number of road rage cases (all the ills of modern traffic) increase.
The obvious answer to this problem is to have better infrastructure, maintain it properly and monitor it continuously. This includes:
- Building more and wider roads, footpaths, rail networks, flyovers, underpasses, bridges, sea links, etc.
- Maintaining the infrastructure in good condition and free from encroachment
- Continuously monitoring traffic
That is a tall order. These idealistic conditions are possible if, and only if, unlimited resources are available to the municipality.
The area where IT can help immensely is in monitoring traffic. There are a number of technology solutions that are available today and they claim to provide intelligent transport systems (ITS). Various sensing technologies exist to detect speed, density and traffic conditions. Global positioning systems (GPS) are used to locate positions. Video surveillance systems visually identify traffic bottlenecks as well as accident locations. Vehicle identifications systems identify license plate numbers and can trace all the information about a vehicle. A system exists to synchronize the traffic signals. There are systems to automatically collect tolls without spending time in queues, and those can be programmed to collect more tolls in order to use a particular road during peak hours.
The starting point of a governance approach for road safety is to first identify the stakeholders and their needs, as well as their wish lists.
- Pedestrians and those who do not own cars: Are the roads safe for walking? Are there enough footpaths, bicycle paths, pedestrian bridges and overpasses? Is public transportation easily available and affordable? Can there be fewer cars on the road to reduce congestion, noise and pollution?
- Vehicle owners: Are the roads safe for driving? Can one drive at higher speeds and reach a destination sooner? Can there be fewer traffic signals and less waiting at each signal? Will one be informed about road congestions in order to avoid bottlenecks?
- Two-wheeler owners: Why is it prohibited to zigzag through the gaps between cars in order to reach a destination faster? Does a driver really need a helmet, which is so restrictive?
- Automobile manufacturers: Can companies sell more cars? Will customers pay for more safety features or should the emphasis be on fancy features?
- Traffic police: Can police departments monitor road congestion? Can traffic be diverted before a traffic jam occurs? Can emergency vehicles be allowed to pass? Can the speeds of vehicles be tracked? Can traffic offenders be tracked? Can heavy penalties on defaulters be imposed?
- Municipalities: Can more taxes be imposed and collected to generate more revenue?
As one can see, the needs of some stakeholders are conflicting. Pedestrians wish there were fewer cars, more space for walking and more signals that allow more time for crossing the road. Car owners wish for fewer signals with less time for crossing the roads. Car manufacturers want to sell more cars. Municipalities want to provide more amenities and collect more revenue for them.
COBIT 5, through its goals cascade (figure 1), addresses these conflicts in an elegant manner.
Figure 1—COBIT 5 Goals Cascade Overview
Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012
Balancing Stakeholder Interests With COBIT 5
Every need expressed by a stakeholder has to be balanced for benefit realization with risk and resource optimization. An appropriate enterprise goal should be selected. In turn, the enterprise goal should be supported by appropriate IT-related goals that are supported by enabler goals. This creates complete traceability between the stakeholder needs and the enabler goals. Thus, every item of expenditure can be justified.
There are excellent IT solutions and technologies to address most of the problems faced by city planners and municipalities today. The decision to invest in a technology should not be a technical decision alone, but a business decision, taken in a balanced manner, keeping stakeholders’ needs as the main focus. The investment in technology must result in benefits for the stakeholders with risk optimization. There should be no wasting of resources. All these should be achieved in a transparent manner providing complete traceability for every item of expenditure.
Governance is about negotiating and deciding among different stakeholders’ value interests. The governance system should consider all stakeholders when making benefit, risk and resource assessment decisions. This is how COBIT 5 can help city planners and municipalities by first identifying stakeholders’ needs, selecting the right technology and delivering the right benefits at an acceptable risk.
Avinash Kadam, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CBCP, CISSP, CSSLP, GCIH, GSEC, PMP
Is a leading authority on information security. He has more than four decades of experience in information technology management, information systems audit, information security consulting, and training. Kadam served as an international vice president of ISACA from 2006 to 2008 and was president of the ISACA Mumbai (India) Chapter from 1998-2000. He is the 2005 recipient of ISACA’s Harold Weiss Award and is currently Advisor to ISACA’s India Growth Task Force.