Putting people first in tomorrow’s smart cities

Four ways in which citizens should be engaged around future smart city developments.
3 September 2019

People must come first in tomorrow’s smart cities. Source: Shutterstock

The best way to build smart cities is to consult those that will be living in them.

The most effective approach to building smart cities is by talking to the citizens who would live in them. 

While convenience and comfort may be the top priority of the regulators and businesses involved in building these environments, whether they are actually ‘liveable’ is the real question.  

In fact, experts believe that smart city initiatives are no longer about optimized traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting, and improvements to public works. Instead, they’re about citizen engagement.

For smart citizens, the focus is not just about the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines, but the enhancement of services and experience.

Therefore, the citizen-government dialogue is a key component that will ensure that the right issues are tackled.

To keep pace with the changing needs of citizens and the development of new business, cities of the future must also be innovative. For example, some governments are using use chatbots to engage with citizens and AI and IoT to manage public assets.

Cities are building business and technology policies to assess the opportunities offered by potentially disruptive technologies like AI for elderly care, autonomous driving, and delivery bots.

For example, Optimus Ride in New York is trialing autonomous shuttles to transport commuters across Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, in what could help win round public attitudes towards self-driving vehicles. 

Obviously, in order to work with citizens, regulators must change their mindsets and create forums and opportunities to better engage with them.

Here are some tips for government agencies looking to activate citizen groups and involve them in creating the smart cities of the future that intelligent and also more liveable:

# 1 | Identify and prioritize

Government agencies and smart city councils must understand the problems that directly impact citizens and apply technology to solve these problems.

For instance, they must align data and information gathered through AI and machine learning to match the specific requirements of citizens and the business.

# 2 | Be mindful

Government agencies should be mindful of the digital divide and pay equal attention to the issues of citizens with fewer IT skills.

Incorporating technologies such as natural-language-powered virtual personal assistants is a step in this direction.

# 3 | Develop transparency

Government agencies involved in smart city projects need to create open data strategies guaranteeing access to all interested parties in a city.

Open data portals allow industries and universities — as well as interested citizens — unencumbered access.

This way, businesses will be involved as well, and create more opportunities for people to share their thoughts about the services they need and the capabilities they’d like to see in the future.

# 4 | Talk about progress

The key to collaborating with citizens is to build objectives and develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that detect stakeholder priorities and measure success and impact — and then communicate progress effectively to keep customers engaged.

Now, as the world plans to pump in US$80 billion in technology for smart cities and raise the stakes to touch US$135 billion by 2021, more attention needs to be paid on the plan and strategy behind the investment.

This article was originally published on Tech Wire Asia