People powered cities - making people part of the design of new urban services

People powered cities

Making people part of the design of new urban services

In the push to use advanced technology to re-energize and prepare our cities for the future, we must not forget the importance of people as social factors, and as the key to making urban systems relevant and effective.

Real-time technology will form the basis of all tomorrow’s cities, as this neat piece of futurism in The Guardian describes. Massive increases in urbanization are putting exponentially more pressure on urban systems. Now, we need to not only manage these systems but also find ways to make them sustainably efficient and adaptable. Real-time, context-aware technology can create new efficiencies and enable city managers to handle complex phenomena; traffic flow, recycling, energy and waste management programs, or almost unimaginably complex events such as the Olympic Games. This technology is dependent on converged infrastructure – which is now becoming a reality as Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, talks about here.

So, we have a new tech infrastructure, that’s all we need, right?

The human factor

Well, no. The key factor often gets forgotten: people. Specifically, citizens! Cities, after all, are defined by the people who live in them, move to them in greater numbers and overload their systems.

The answer is to apply solutions that fit what people need and use citizen interaction to improve them – making people part of the design.

This means technologies we all know well and use all the time – sharing and social community platforms – are vital to give people the engagement they need to ‘get behind’ change, while using their feedback to improve service. This is not only more effective and long-lasting but also rapid and cost-efficient.

This is just one step in the creation of a virtuous circle and partnership between city governments, businesses, and citizens. By enabling citizens to share and feedback about new, real-time services in the design phase – by making them part of the design – you ensure the most important term in the equation – the citizen – is there; the key element that makes solutions work, helps them to evolve, and will create cities fit for a global future.

About Albert Seubers

Albert Seubers (1959) graduated at Agricultural University Wageningen in building technologies and biomass gasification. Ever since he worked in IT consultancy focused on governmental topics. He worked for Dutch Telecom implementing the first fiber networks in Netherlands, for CMG as director in the Public Sector Service group, for HP as Public Sector executive before he joined Atos. Since 2011 he is Head of Global Strategy IT in Cities for Atos. The Atos MyCity program focusses on the virtuous circle of managing a city on all aspects as safety, citizen services, employment, education, social and health care, transport and traffic, sustainability and governance and economics. Engaging citizens and business communities to create and maintain a sustainable, safe and prosperous city is the key message in Atos MyCity. In his role he works with cities all over the world to help them define a strategy often referred to as a Smart City Strategy or find solutions to support their strategy. Albert is a strong believer in the fact that IT plays an important maybe even the most important role in creating the city of the future.