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Citizen engagement key to the success of Smart Cities

City Crowds

© flickr/cc-licence/Ben Sutherland

  • Analysis from Gartner shows citizens must come first
  • Local government CIOs must focus on the problems faced by citizens
  • Open data strategies guaranteeing access to all are required
  • By 2020, two-third of all smart city strategies will incorporate KPIs

Citizen engagement is critical to the success of smart cities, according to international research firm Gartner. It adds that smart city initiatives are no longer about optimised traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting and improvements to public works, but rather the enhancement of services and experience. So put aside your technology focus on IoT and AI for the moment, and instead refocus on citizen-government dialogue to ensure that the right issues are tackled.

"The way forward today is a community-driven, bottom-up approach where citizens are an integral part of designing and developing smart cities, and not a top-down policy with city leaders focusing on technology platforms alone," said Bettina Tratz-Ryan research vice president at Gartner. "As data analytics and insights become increasingly valuable because of the extensive analytics and learning, data algorithms will become the essential element to create user-focused services.”

Ah, so maybe don’t abandon all your technology just yet… There looks to be plenty of scope for machine learning and chatbots to engage with citizens, as well as disruptive technologies like AI for elderly care, autonomous driving or delivery bots. In addition, there are emerging use cases for blockchain for transactions and in record keeping.

"Changes in citizen mindsets mean that governments must change their mindsets," said Traz-Ryan. "Government CIOs today need to look at creating innovation strategies to attract new industries and develop digital skills. They need to look at changing their spatial planning, road infrastructure, data and service management."

Gartner recommends that CIOs in local government to need to 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. They also need to be mindful of the digital divide and pay equal attention to the issues of citizens with fewer IT skills. It believes that incorporating technologies such as natural-language-powered virtual personal assistants is a step in this direction.

CIOs also need to create open data strategies guaranteeing access to all interested parties in a city, whether they be industries, universities or citizens. They also need to use measurements and key performance indicators (KPIs) to explain the progress of smart city initiatives to their various stakeholders. Gartner believes that by 2020, two-third of all smart city execution strategies will incorporate KPIs to visualise the impact of mobility-related urban services.

"Business strategies must clearly focus on the development of a seamless citizen service experience through digital access to information and government services,” added Tratz-Ryan. 

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