Building connected communities: lessons from the CIO of Cary, N.C.

Located near the technology triangle of North Carolina, the town of Cary isn’t just a smart city; it’s a connected community, according to the town’s Chief Information Officer, Nicole Raimundo.

“I like to call it a connected community because I think it's more than just the technology. It's connecting people; it's connecting the businesses; it's creating relationships. So, for me, it's all about connection, which unifies and strengthens the community.”

Nicole Raimundo, Chief Information Officer of Cary, North Carolina

But even the savviest communities face challenges like tight budgets, process, and bureaucracy that can make getting things done difficult. Originally shared on iHeart Radio’s The Restless Ones podcast, sponsored by T-Mobile, here are a few takeaways from Raimundo on leveraging creativity, partnerships, and advancements in technology to change the way people live and work:

Use resources wisely.

To overcome budget challenges and use taxpayer dollars wisely, Raimundo says it’s important to shift fixed mindsets and think more like a start-up.

According to her, “When you go to a municipality, often you don't realize how fortunate you are in the private sector to have tools at your disposal, money at your disposal, and often very talented and unlimited resources. For me, that became the challenge and the opportunity in public service.”

In one example of getting creative to solve problems, Raimundo’s team used the Cary town hall campus (a small city in and of itself with parking and lighting systems, police teams, and fire crews) to explore both the right types of technology to use in a connected community, and how to use them. According to Raimundo, this has helped the team better understand how to share and collect data, use open APIs, implement security best practices, and more.

Make the right connections.

When existing resources aren’t enough, Raimundo’s team also focuses on creating strategic partnerships that can help move the city forward.

For example, the town of Cary worked with Salesforce and Cisco to connect their Salesforce instance with the Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform to help monitor parking spot needs and availability. The town of Cary shares data from the connected solutions with citizens who then help develop parking-related apps, saving Cary precious resources.

Build momentum.

One tip on getting things done in challenging environments? Simply get started.

“…The moment you do something—and it really doesn't matter what it is—you start to build momentum,” said Raimundo.

For instance, she recalls a time when, after months of deliberation, leaders from neighboring communities rallied together to develop a regional stormwater solution that enables the towns to notify each other of troublesome conditions. According to her, sometimes someone just needs to say “this is what we’re doing” to get things moving forward.

Move beyond the city.

As a working mom who travels through various communities regularly, Raimundo also understands the importance of leveraging next-generation networks to build consistent experiences that help level the playing field for citizens, no matter which town they live in.

“…The greatest impact is going to be when we start moving beyond the city. I think 5G's an enabler for that. I think that as long as we start to connect together, the possibilities then become limitless.”

Nicole Raimundo, Chief Information Officer of Cary, North Carolina

In addition to seeing what solutions are developed on next-generation networks, Raimundo says she looks forward to leveraging increased speeds from 5G networks to further improve connected communities like Cary.

For the full story, listen to “Building a Connected City” from iHeart Radio’s The Restless Ones podcast.

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