In recent years, Smart technology has moved from concept to reality. Smart cities are already on the way and most systems are becoming more accessible, intuitive and increasingly comprehensive when it comes to tackling the problems of local populations. With a market projected to double from $81 billion to $151 billion globally — according to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Smart Cities Spending Guide — we’re seeing both large world capitals and small to medium-sized cities rely on Smart technology to improve the lives of their citizens, improve their infrastructural networks and cut costs. Naturally, though, development comes at a price, and in cases like the public sector, the approach to Smart changes has to be smart itself.
A Smart public sector can obviously bring major advantages to local populations. Bureaucracy is still a major hurdle for many countries or local governments and digital accessibility has still not found its way into many public services like healthcare, education, social security, and even elections. Although it may sound counterintuitive, consider the number of people the public sector caters to, it’s perfectly natural that it’ll lag behind. The private sector has more funding, targeted investment, and the drive to continuously expand and develop. Meanwhile, the public sector is incredibly exposed to things like political shifts, delayed-, or lack of-, funding and even its own bureaucracy to pass laws and budgets that allow for the implementation of Smart technology.
Being smart about going Smart.
To objectively approach this problem, the public sector needs to be smart about implementing their own Smart technologies and policies. While the private sector can focus entirely on usability, governments (and the smaller they are, the harder to handle it gets) must consider the effect that certain policies on scientific or technological development have, not only on their populations but also on their budgets. This shouldn’t, however, be a life or death situation for any town without the funds to implement full-scale change. Unlike much of what the hype has suggested, Smart cities are not absolute and technology can be gradually implemented within micro or local systems and communities.
Smart isn’t the future – It’s already here.
Several towns in the United Kingdom are already flying the Smart technology flag with relevant advancements, problems, and industries like data and information, energy, traffic congestion, pollution and environmental sustainability, facility management, and even Smart living. Many of these advances might come off as “invisible” in light of some of the hype generated regarding the cities of the future but real cities, in the present, like Glasgow (a world-leading Smart city), have already invested millions in projects aimed at cutting down public energy consumption and associated costs, all while working on sustainability, and in turn, better living for its citizens. Another good example of how Smart technology can simultaneously reduce costs while drastically increasing the quality of life in small and medium-sized towns is urban mobility. With heavily subsidised public transportation networks, having Smart transport in towns of low or fluctuating passenger demand can free large portions of the public budget and bring large city transportation — while also increasing air quality — to small populations who are often left behind on technological development.
Smart policies, Smart cities, Smart living.
At the end of the day, going Smart requires town halls and government to be smart about it. Implementation should be gradual, moderate and focus on the ratio between cutting costs and bettering the lives of its citizens. With clear priorities and the right policies, the government can use the implementation of Smart technology to drive and redirect public investment, free up additional funding for more technology, and enable their citizens and public workforce with digital and Smart tools to help make their lives better.