The era of digital transformation is upon us. The recent advancements in the development and spread of artificial intelligence is only the tip of the iceberg. Certainly, the discussion and debate among proponents (see Bill Gate’s Blog) and critics (see for example Chomsky’s, Robert’s, and Watumull’s article in NYT) of the recent advancements is still going on. Yet, the undisputable facts are (a) these digital transformation technologies are here to stay, and (b) their proliferation in our wider communities, citizens and societies is beginning to have a real impact on our everyday lives.

The role of regional and local institutional governance can be – and should be, catalytic. There are a few reasons why. First (and perhaps foremost), local government is in the heart of our communities and citizens. We interact daily and regularly with our citizens, we address and tend to citizen’s needs and aspirations, we strive to provide quality public services, and, we, ourselves are an indistinguishable part of these communities.

Secondly, local and regional government institutions are often the custodians and guardians of today’s big-data. We collect and process often massive amount data, those of high-quality and accuracy. Our data both directly relate to our citizen’s daily and more important activities (from reality capture, building information systems, social, economic, geodemographic, health, traffic, public works and improvements, to name a few). We manage and maintain critical infrastructures, operations and collective community projects and data. Therefore, local government institutions are strategically positioned to spearhead the charge for data-driven and science-driven integration of digital transformation and AI technologies into our communities’ and citizens’ everyday lives.

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Thirdly, and perhaps equally important, is that local governments care greatly not only about tangible values, but also about intangible ones. We strive to address inequalities, disparities and social integration on behalf of our citizens and communities. In the context of digital transformation and innovation technologies, this area is of paramount importance. If we are to achieve excellence in guiding our societies into this new era of digital proliferation, we need to be aware and address issues of digital literacy, the digital divide, and digital inequalities among our most vulnerable groups in our communities. And we need to do this by combining bottom-up, community and citizen-driven approaches, with tightly integrated and coupled institutional governance, educational and research leadership, and innovation industry integration into a translational science and governance approach.

We need new and transformative frameworks with future-oriented outlook. The 4C partnerships (communities, government, research and industry) can be one of these approaches. A couple of bright examples in Orange County lead the charge in these developments. The CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County (CLA-OC) with their partnerships, educational programs and the goals for excellence in creating a thriving OC for All is one of these examples. The recent Sustainability Decathlon stiving for promoting leadership for sustainability in our County is another.

As part of the Orange County Public Works, OC Survey group, we are in the heart of the digital data transformation era. We are also a valued and highly recognized member of the Digital Twin Consortium, a global body of government, industry and academic institutions, on which I serve as the Co-Chair of the Research and Academia Working Group. Slowly, but surely, Orange County is recognized as one of the leaders in charging for digital transformation and for developing and nurturing strong and lasting relationships and partnerships that can help OC become a national and global hub for digital innovation, smart city development and accessible AI.

Figure 1: An overview of our Digital Twin data framework for Orange County, focusing on adaptive scalability and modular data components. Credit: Dr. Kostas Alexandridis, Orange County Public Works, OC Survey Geospatial Services.

Our modern challenges are inherently complex and multi-dimensional. We need everyone on board, and no one should be left behind. We will tackle complexity by helping our citizens embrace and understand it and support our community leaders, businesses, our governance, and educational institutions, to promote digital literacy, and by creating and nurturing a digitally empowering and enabling culture for all. I, personally could not be more excited and delighted to be part of this transformative era for our Orange County.

Dr. Kostas Alexandridis is a Spatial Complex Systems Scientist and GIS Analyst with the County of Orange, OC Survey Geospatial Services, in Santa Ana. He lives in the City of Orange, and he is involved in digital transformation technology development including Digital Twins, geoAI, Machine Learning and the social-natural sustainability transformations. See more in his LinkedIn Profile. The opinions expressed here represent professional opinions of the author as a member of the public, and do not necessarily represent the County of Orange.

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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