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Citizen engagement is key to smart city success

By 2020, two-thirds of all smart city execution strategies will incorporate key performance indicators

Citizens need to be involved if the right issues are to be tackled
Citizens need to be involved if the right issues are to be tackled

Smart city initiatives are no longer about optimised traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting and improvements to public works, new analysis suggests.


Instead citizen engagement and the enhancement of services and experience will be critical to the success of smart cities, according to international research firm Gartner.


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, Gartner reports. Therefore, citizen-government dialogue is a key component that will 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.


To keep pace with the changing needs of citizens, and the development of new business, cities are now striving to become not just smart, but also innovative. Machine learning and chatbots are being used to engage citizens or assets with their environment.


Cities are building business and technology policies to assess the opportunities offered by potentially 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, said 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,” added Traz-Ryan.


“Changes in citizen mindsets mean that governments must change their mindsets. 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 analysts recommend CIOs in local government to:

  • Identify and prioritise: CIOs 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
  • Be mindful: CIOs need to 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
  • Develop transparency: CIOs 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
  • Use measurements and key performance indicators (KPIs) to explain the progress of smart city to stakeholders. “The key to CIO success is building objectives by developing key performance indicators that detect stakeholder priorities and measure success and impact. The United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, is a perfect example of how incorporating these guidelines help in the execution of the of the smart city framework,” said Tratz-Ryan.

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