Civic Governments have a vision for smart cities and want the public on board. They plan to get people involved with their innovations but people want to make their own choices. It’s a tug of war and we need sophisticated tools to talk to each other, communication channels that maximise the potential of a mobile touch screen. City leaders have to talk to the public but how are they going to do it?
The community development approach to urban change is a framework for dealing with people that smart cities should employ because we are no longer nation states but interconnected communities. A community is a group of people bonded by shared interests, experiences or information. The largest communities are people who live in cities, i.e. citizens.
In a community approach to development there are some rules. The first step is the assessment of citizen needs. Citizens decide their own issues and the leader of the change, the change agent, addresses these first. Equally important is understanding the local language of the people, how they feel and what they think.
Plans, innovations, the view from the outside - this is secondary. For them to listen to you, first you listen to them.
People are not robots.
And it would be clever in an age of rapidly developing AI not to forget this distinction.
The Next Challenge
Engagement is more than filling the trough and expecting people to feed, it is the natural byproduct of a process. To serve the next generation it would be wise to retain equal fascination for this process as evangelists express for smart cities.
Certainly this is an age of smart ready citizens, armed with smartphones and the sub-cultural philosophy that knowledge is power. In Munich, where our collaborators sensation.io are based, students bring their own chairs to lectures. Spaces are getting busier but not bigger. Technology alone cannot solve the problems we face. Solutions rely on people and we should support city leaders with this philosophy.
Reap the Harvest
The second thing to consider in social change is that adoption requires demonstration. Social change cannot be forced but occurs through voluntary acceptance. You must turn people to a way of thinking, especially if they are stuck in their ways.
The problem however is that people have lost trust in government as an institution. For Civic government a community conscious strategy is the solution and this means working in partnership with the public. Imagine Miranda Lambert is playing for an audience of heavy metal fans. Then change to Black Sabbath. Do you see that picture? That’s how engagement levels skyrocket when people are invited to co create their smart cities.
When people are involved in more than voting in leaders, when they know their thoughts are taken seriously, trust naturally develops. And when people trust they follow recommendation. If people care they go to great lengths to support each other which for government means using the technologies provided. And isn't that the goal?
Civic engagement requires a renewal of the trust we have lost. Considering the smart city market is predicted to pass 3 trillion, maybe 4 trillion in the next decade the future thinking city leaders are beginning to invest in these relationships now.
Over the gun
This is not the same population as the 1800’s. The voice of the public is not going away. It is in fact only getting stronger. Thanks to urbanisation, more people, ideas and data analysis we are witnessing a neo renaissance. A key factor of the 15th century European renaissance was the increased flow of people between cities and exactly like then we need fluidity for it to work. This means communication between government and people, developers and adopters, implementers and visionaries.
The public today can not be lead by an iron fist and the tools for communication that serve a purpose beyond social interaction will hit critical mass. The largest segment of the smart market is the upgrade of government services and the measure of its success will be defined by the strength of their relationships, predicted to improve as we evolve from a system of transmitter - receiver to a fluid network.
The ticket to get us where we’re going is a mobile application that gives people a voice that is quantifiable.
Social media is a fantastic form of broadcasting but at the end of the day it’s most powerful tool is just a video upload representing the voice of individuals. It doesn’t tie anything together. And even with five billion views and half as many likes the numbers have no value. When this many people express themselves with more than like, for example by saying they would recommend the experience because it motivated them to change their life or that public figure should be fired because their politics are prehistoric, then we have high value data suited to negotiations with government.
As much as they must be able to talk to people, people must be able to talk to them.
While we may be excited today about the potential of machine generated data, the golden information of tomorrow is from people and smart city leaders are driving that change.
In the era of smart development digital communication channels are a necessary middle man.
Powered by sensation.io technology the mobile application closes the gap between the government and the public. It supports high volume data collection and produces immediate live results. No waiting for statistics and analysts to pick the right data for the story. The data is the story and much like the eager students crowding the lecture halls we all have the right to set down a chair and watch it unfold.
It starts with a conversation at SXSW.
We’ve opened a door to the future. It’s your choice how far you choose to enter in.
Head of Content
March 9, 2018