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Connected citizens

Tom Burton: In some of you work you have done in US, I’ve noticed Philadelphia and the connected citizen proposition. I think we’ve talked about this earlier in the interview regarding engagement. What were some of the learnings from what you saw in Philadelphia, that would be relevant to a city like Sydney or an agency like DHS (Department of Human Services)

Vivek Kundra: So the amazing thing about the city of Philadelphia is you had a mayor who was very determined to make sure that the city of Philadelphia was attracting investment, so businesses would move there, was cracking down on crime and had made education a big priority.

So, it begins with public safety and one of the things he did, he had said, look the government doesn’t have the answer to every problem.

What if we use these modern platforms and we were able to engage citizens, in the same way they engage with each other on Facebook. So they realise that there were parks where there’s needles in the ground, open air drug markets and graffiti everywhere. And so they said what they said was well what if we had precinct captains online in this program called Philadelphia Rising, and allowed citizens to self-organise, and bring government in as part of that conversation, as part of that solution, instead of being the only solution.

All of a sudden you started seeing these areas that are crime ridden, people are coming in and taking pictures and reporting graffiti, getting pictures of the open air market and bringing police officers who are necessary and you started seeing outcomes that weren’t possible in the past.

In the same capacity every city in the world, including Sydney, can benefit from that. Where the government can become the platform and can tap into the ingenuity and they create a spirit of its citizens so no longer do you have this relationship that we now have to deal with the government be a subject and unfortunately that’s how a lot of government think.

Instead citizens can be co-creators in a general part of society and they can help solve a lot of the problems and I think too many political leaders don’t tap into that. They don’t unleash the creative energy of their people.

Tom Burton: Is that what you mean by government is a platform, the idea that it’s like a whole platform that ; can support a whole set of conversations, and engagement processes.

Vivek Kundra: Absolutely and a very rich ecosystem where you have the public sector, the private sector, the citizens, the NGO community coming together and addressing this problem in a multi-stakeholder model, rather than just one agency that’s responsible for solving it, because the problems are not that simple.

Tom Burton: If you think about it you got all this interaction happening from a digital perspective, you got to manage all that. So often the top end is relatively easy to start getting going, but you have to manage the whole underneath of it. What’s your advice around that sort of area?

Vivek Kundra: Well, I actually think its significantly easier, right and the reason is because with this interactions you have a wave of data that’s generated and the capability that existed today with analytic ability to slice and dice and cube and be much more precise at predictive around what types of intervention you need or services you need to deploy.

So the example of let’s say there’s snow in the city of Philadelphia and you need to be able to plow. What if using sensor data and snow plows and mobile device you could tell somebody when the snow plow is coming to plow their street, on a real-time basis.

What if you could actually get these departments of public work trucks that are going out there and picking up trash or cleaning streets, have cameras that could actually take pictures of licence plates and figure out which ones are delinquent or haven’t paid their tickets, right?

So, you can actually not only lower the cost of government operations, but you can provide better data around public safety, around health care; so that the government is investing in the appropriate places.

Let me give you an example on the private sector side which I think is amazing. So you look at a company like Uber, they have amasing data set that cities can leverage. It’s the ability to be able to figure out if you and I are neighbors and are leaving our house roughly around the same time, and going roughly around the same area in the city for work. what if you could carpool and that’s one of the things they did.

That’s why they created Uber pool and they have amazing data plus a whole city to be able to say what if we could lower the cost of providing transportation that’s even cheaper than the municipal bus service, and the city can benefit immensely if it share that data with Uber to be able to figure out how can the city do better planning.

Tom Burton: Right.

Vivek Kundra: It’s not just Uber, what about Airbnb?.Maybe you look at occupancy rates around the city. What does that mean in terms of growth and economic values that are created?

Author Bio

The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.