Exploring tech for cities from the capital of Silicon Valley

Name: Jordan Sun

Title: Director, Mayor’s Office of Tech & Innovation

City: San José, Calif.

As the chief innovation officer in the capital of Silicon Valley, Jordan Sun straddles two worlds.

One part of his job, which he started in June after wrapping up a tech-focused tour of duty with Army Reserves in Afghanistan, is to explore “over-the-horizon” technologies that could help solve problems around City Hall. That has Sun studying tools like blockchain, which he believes have now traveled far enough along what technologists call the “hype curve” to show where they might actually be useful.

“If you play too early in the curve, you get burned,” he said. “It’s where technologies are coming out of that ‘trough of disillusionment’ that cities have the best opportunities to engage.”

At the same time, Sun is charged with closing a digital divide that persists despite San José’s reputation for tech. About 95,000 residents, or roughly 10 percent of the city’s population, is either under or unconnected to broadband internet, Sun says.

The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to get 11,000 households mobile Wi-Fi hotspots so that children could attend school online. He’s also pushing big rollouts of community Wi-Fi, and working with cellular providers to support underserved areas as they roll out their 5G internet networks. “You can’t have a ‘smart city’ until you cross the digital divide,” Sun said.

Pro tip: “Reach out to other cities to learn what they’re doing.”

Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program. bloombergcities.org

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