On the same wavelength on smart cities: Citizen is also the sensor

Posted on January 14, 2015  /  1 Comments

I was somewhat disappointed by the Modi government leaning toward the IBM vision of smart cities, where sensors would be ubiquitously placed across green-field new-build satellite cities across India. Our vision is lower cost and seeks to improve existing cities relying on citizens as the principal sensors.

So I was pleased to our thinking echoed in a http://blogs.worldbank.org/ic4d/building-smarter-cities?hootPostID=9a1ec4824d96c202fcbac48a0d3cd540:

When we think about Smart Cities, we usually go in one of two directions: on one hand, we may think about a very technology-intensive city, where sensors are everywhere and public services are provided in a very efficient manner, mainly because of the technology they use and decisions being based on information that is gathered in real time by thousands of interconnected devices. All buildings are “intelligent”, with smart meters and energy saving systems, and transport is painless (or at least it is as good as it could ever get). Trash cans have sensors that indicate when they are full, and trash collectors follow a specific route based on this information.

On the other hand, some cities are taking a different stab at “smart.” They go for a better relationship between citizens and governments leveraged by technology. That is, by whatever technology is available at the time. They rely on citizens to help improve service delivery by identifying their needs and creating mechanisms for feedback and reports. Citizens have a more active role in managing their own neighborhoods, and collaborate with their local governments to improve public services. Government releases relevant data that is then taken by civil society to co-create applications aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens. Citizens have an application in their smartphone (or an SMS service) with which they can report a full trash can, and trash collectors can accommodate their routes based on this information.

We believe that both approaches are not mutually exclusive, and that they can be adopted by cities in developing countries to improve the delivery of public services.

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