City Launches Inclusive Innovation Roadmap

Sep 9, 2015

Chief Innovation Officer Debra Lam explains the concept of inclusive innovation while Mayor Bill Peduto (left), Councilman Dan Gilman, and Chief Urban Affairs Officer Valerie McDonald-Roberts look on.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is big on innovation. He transformed the city’s Computer Information Systems department into the Department of Innovation and Performance and hired the city’s first Chief Innovation Officer, Debra Lam.

But Lam said that when the mayor’s team started looking around at the most innovative cities in the world, they found that they were also some of the most exclusive.

“This is something that the mayor was very cognizant of in terms of trying to change the dialogue, trying to change the discussion," Lam said Tuesday at the launch for the city’s Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation. "How can we move forward on innovation collectively?” 

Officials called the roadmap a “living document” based on the core principle of inclusive innovation.

“A roadmap that will be evolving,” Peduto said. “A roadmap that will change as technology changes, but one that isn’t a hand-out, but a hand-up.”

The idea is to ensure equitable access to technology, information and city resources and to improve quality of life for all residents as the city continues to recover from the collapse of the steel industry decades ago.

Lam said the city partnered with dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals to identify six focus areas: addressing the digital divide, empowering citizen engagement, opening data, improving internal operations and capacity, advancing clean technology and promoting local businesses.

They then identified over 100 different projects and initiatives that would help the city meet those goals. Some examples include providing public wifi access in Citiparks facilities, making city infrastructure more accessible and helping small businesses in disadvantaged neighborhoods build a web presence.

“A lot of other cities might have hired consultants and other external experts,” Lam said. “This was homegrown. We really drove this internally within our department, through all of you, through the mayor’s leadership, and that’s what makes this so exciting. We can do this ourselves, and we collectively can take this to the next level.”

The Department of Innovation and Performance partnered with the Urban Redevelopment Authority on the roadmap. URA acting executive director Robert Rubenstein said environmental sustainability is a key component of the roadmap and to Pittsburgh’s continued revitalization.

“When we’re investing in a project, when we’re working with developers, we’re pushing the envelope on sustainability,” Rubenstein said.

Learn more about the Pittsburgh Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation here.