Making cities smarter through citizen engagement

Vaidehi Shah at Eco-Business: “Rapidly progressing information communications technology (ICT) is giving rise to an almost infinite range of innovations that can be implemented in cities to make them more efficient and better connected. However, in order for technology to yield sustainable solutions, planners must prioritise citizen engagement and strong leadership.
This was the consensus on Tuesday at the World Cities Summit 2014, where representatives from city and national governments, technology firms and private sector organisations gathered in Singapore to discuss strategies and challenges to achieving sustainable cities in the future.
Laura Ipsen, Microsoft corporate vice president for worldwide public sector, identified globalisation, social media, big data, and mobility as the four major technological trends prevailing in cities today, as she spoke at the plenary session with a theme on “The next urban decade: critical challenges and opportunities”.
Despite these increasing trends, she cautioned, “technology does not build infrastructure, but it does help better engage citizens and businesses through public-private partnerships”.
For example, “LoveCleanStreets”, an online tool developed by Microsoft and partners, enables London residents to report infrastructure problems such as damaged roads or signs, shared Ipsen.
“By engaging citizens through this application, cities can fix problems early, before they get worse,” she said.
In Singapore, the ‘MyWaters’ app of PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, is also a key tool for the government to keep citizens up-to-date of water quality and safety issues in the country, she added.
Even if governments did not actively develop solutions themselves, simply making the immense amounts of data collected by the city open to businesses and citizens could make a big difference to urban liveability, Mark Chandler, director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of International Trade and Commerce, pointed out.
Opening up all of the data collected by San Francisco, for instance, yielded 60 free mobile applications that allow residents to access urban solutions related to public transport, parking, and electricity, among others, he explained. This easy and convenient access to infrastructure and amenities, which are a daily necessity, is integral to “a quality of life that keeps the talented workforce in the city,” Chandler said….”