We’re living in an era of unprecedented urban expansion. One in which the rise of ‘mega cities’, featuring 10 million inhabitants or more, is becoming the norm around the globe.
According to the United Nations, 55 percent of the global population currently lives in cities. By 2050, that number is expected to reach 68 percent. And these urban centers are set to become important power houses for future national and regional economic growth.
For governments trying to steer cities into the future and improve livability for the populations they serve, embracing intelligent digital technologies and solutions will be the key to dealing with a whole host of potential issues on the horizon.
Everything from addressing a range of infrastructure, transit, and connectivity challenges to harnessing data driven intelligence to identify appropriate priorities – so they can get the right services to the right citizens, at the right time.
And that’s not all.
Creating healthy, sustainable and happy places for people to live and work will also require a major shift in mindset.Because, while leveraging a digital technology is important, the ability to truly connect with citizens will vital to understanding what urban life means for those who live and work in their municipalities.
The citizen experience gap: From government to governance
The 21st century has witnessed a growing acceptance that it’s time to take a new approach to urban policy and governance in relation to the way cities are run.
One in which the aspirations and views of the millions of people who live, work, and seek entertainment in cities can be captured, so that policies and programs can be created that truly meet citizen’s needs.
It’s a movement fueled by the rise of tech savvy and digitally connected ‘global’ citizens, who increasingly expect to participate in, and shape, the public discourse on how they live and work.
Against a backdrop of growing resource scarcity and rapid climate change, addressing the well-being, basic needs and happiness of urban residents and workers will require a truly collaborative and co-operative approach to problem solving.
And it’s this engagement with all stakeholders that is the key to both attracting business and creating vibrant and livable environments that appeal to high-caliber talent.
Co-designing new ways to live, work, and do business
The smart city concept isn’t a new one. Around the globe, initiatives to transform the lives of citizens and deliver city-wide innovations that allow industry to accelerate sustainable growth are already underway.
To create cities that are both prosperous and livable, they’re connecting local government, businesses, and citizens to facilitate better decision making and generate creative ideas. For example, enabling people to contribute to urban planning and development initiatives, or empowering people to share ideas on how to address environmental sustainability challenges.
For this to happen, the city needs to become a platform that enables multiple stakeholders to exchange, collaborate and interact—making it possible to crowdsource ideas, create digital communities that can deliver solutions, or enable ecosystems where businesses, citizens, and academics can co-innovate to solve urban problems.
Cities need to become solution-enablers that allow businesses and citizens to access and share data to generate and co-develop new, better ways of living and working.
It’s a big challenge. One that depends on being able to listen to people and their data to proactively model how services will look in the future, as well as identifying gaps in citizen satisfaction with existing services or day-to-day urban issues —like transportation and mobility challenges or concerns about living and working conditions.
Citizen engagement – mind the citizen experience gap
Delivering satisfying citizen experiences means cities will need to find ways to enable the services that citizens want and need. To achieve this, city administrators must first understand and elevate citizen sentiment, using these learnings to guide future efforts in the right direction.
The good news is that the technology is now available to extract citizen sentiment from different sources, at multiple levels of granularity – and combining that information with insights gleaned from operational data – to identify exactly which services will most improve citizen value outcomes and engagement. It’s an approach that’s enabling the City of Orlando to better understand the citizen experience and improve citizen trust and satisfaction with the services it delivers.
For smart cities to reach their full potential, they’ll need to focus intensely on the needs of the citizens that work and live in them and promote a bottom-up community-driven approach to addressing the problems and issues that directly impact on all interested parties.
Taking a citizen-centric approach
Cities of the future seeking to enable safer communities, improved transportation, a reduced environmental footprint, or increased digital equity will need to improve their local development and services in accordance with people’s needs.
Achieving this will require a citizen-centric approach that both closes the communication gap between citizens, the city ecosystem, and the municipality – and enables access to consumer-grade digital services.