Governments working towards a smarter world

Governments around the world are taking steps to turn their cities into smart cities of the future – and it’s all for the people.

Considering our areas of focus, the term “Smart City” will likely conjure immediate associations with Smart Mobility and Intelligent Transport – two very distinct features of a truly smart city. But from eHealth, energy efficiency, IoT, and learning technologies, to smart homes, cyber security, 5G, Smart Grid and e-governance, the full list of smart city features is a long one. In the end, it all comes down to making life easier for the people who live and travel there.

With the future tapping on the world’s proverbial shoulder, digitization is already impacting some cities and countries around the world in different ways, especially when it comes to e-governance.

In the past decade, more than 60 countries have issued electronic national ID cards. Online and mobile public services platforms are evolving, and many local governments and other public sectors are opening up their data and making it available for reuse – embracing the idea of “government as a platform.”


In our Location Trends 2017 we learned about e-Estonia – Estonia’s fully integrated public services platform that allows non-nationals to apply for an e-residency that would let them start a business, register with a bank, and file taxes in Estonia from anywhere.

Working towards becoming a smart nation, Singapore sets up policies and legislations to encourage innovation and experimentation. Eventually, some lead to the adoption of new ideas like the Chabot technology in cooperation with Microsoft, which enables citizens to interact 24/7 with its public services.

Denmark is pursuing a Digital Welfare strategy that focuses on the dissemination of telemedicine and a Shared Medication Record throughout the entire healthcare system.

A slightly different approach seems to happen in the UK. In London, the GLA (London Office of Data Analytics), Nesta, and ASI Data Science are running a pilot exploring how data analytics can reform public services.

“Nearly all the examples … involve some combination of making smarter use of people, data and technology. But the key point is that the order of thinking matters: people must come first – the technology is the enabler, not the driver,” said Eddie Copeland, Director of Government Innovation at Nesta.

Then there are initiatives that enable people and citizens to contribute in shaping their environment. These range from small ones like adopt-a-park or –street, to participatory decision-making like the “Budget participatory,” in which Parisians submit ideas and vote on where a dedicated budget should be applied.

The most ambitious public participation project ever funded by the European Union is the “Cimulact” – an initiative where 1,000 citizens and stakeholders in 30 countries are involved in the actual formulation of the European research and innovation agenda.

Considering all of these examples, a really smart government opens up many possibilities to acknowledge and respect the will of citizens to have more control over their lives. Along the way, individual privacy needs to be respected and protected, making ethical frameworks for data science and AI an essential foundation.

Topics: Smart cities, Location Trends