Guest Blogger: Neil Carter, Head of Local and Regional Government, Microsoft UK

Growing faster than ever before, cities are economic and cultural hubs that drive economies and environmental change. But today’s cities also face unprecedented challenges. Microsoft believes the answers to these challenges lie in people -- in government or local businesses, and even everyday citizens. That’s why Microsoft is working with cities worldwide to harness the ideas, energy, and expertise of their people, creating healthier, greener, safer and more prosperous places to live.

Today, the Microsoft CityNext initiative comes to the UK with our sponsorship of a new category of the prestigious Municipal Journal Awards – UK Digital City of the Year. As the sponsor of this category, Microsoft is looking for outstanding examples of how cities and city-region authorities, working in partnership with other local agencies and businesses, are using innovative digital technology to overcome the challenges of budget constraint, rising demand and changing citizen needs.

The MJ Awards judges will want to see how authorities have improved the lives of their citizens, developed their potential and met their changing needs for integrated, digital public services. Entries will need to be supplied from the chief executive and/or leader of city and/or city region authorities, and show a corporate approach to making their community a digital leader.

The finalists and winner of the UK Digital City of the Year Award will be recognised as leaders in connecting governments, businesses, and citizens with city services through innovation that increases efficiencies, reduces costs, and fosters a more sustainable life for all.

I encourage you to visit the MJ Awards website for information on how to enter. I look forward to meeting the finalists and congratulating the eventual winner of the UK Digital City of the Year at the MJ Awards Ceremony on 19 June, 2014. Of course, the UK Digital City of the Year Award is just the beginning of the Microsoft CityNext conversation in the UK. In the months to come, we’ll be sharing stories from cities and their people, in the UK and internationally, who are leading the way in creating healthier, safer, greener and more prosperous places to live.