Smart Cities United Kingdom

Smart City Experiments

OrganiCity is an EU-funded project that is attempting to (in the organisation’s own words) “put people at the centre of smart city development.” (Alternatives to putting “people in the centre” aren’t fully spelled-out on the organisation’s website).

The initiative, apparently, has some 7.2m Euros of budget of which €1.2m will be allocated to “citizen-driven experiments based on the Organicity platform in 2016 and 2017.”

Some 15 organisations are involved in the initiative with three cities acting as the key collaboration agents: London, Santander and Aarhus.

Organicity’s partners (that include Future Cities Catapult in the UK) will make available a series of tools that commercial and public sector bodies can use to build “experiments” using urban data and the internet of things.

A recent open call for experiment proposals was made in London in January and bidders can access up to €60,000 of funding. The call is open to experimenters from anywhere who are willing to use the OrganiCity platform.

Further information about Organicity is available here.

Citizen Engagement

Obama Talks USDS

It’s not exactly that common that the President of the United States pops in at a tech conference. But that’s exactly what happened at the SXSW conference recently when President Obama took the opportunity to outline his embarrassment about the botched rollout of (rolled out, of course, on his watch).

He also took the opportunity to talk about the US Digital Service (modeled, to some extent , on the UK’s GDS) – a clear attempt to ensure that such botched roll-outs of technology platforms don’t become the norm.


Citizen Engagement Digital Government Uncategorized

Engaging Millennials

I have lost track of the number of times articles on customer and citizen engagement talk about millennials and their unique characteristics – it seems to have reached mythical dimensions. So what is this “millennial phenomenon?”

What sets millennials apart from other generations, namely Baby Boomers and Gen-Xrs, is that this is the first generation to grow up in an interactive digital world – the so-called “digital natives.” To millennials, mobile and social technologies are what the telephone and the radio were for Baby-Boomers in their youth. Immediately accessing information and instantly communicating and sharing is second nature for this generation.

As a result, they expect not only immediacy of information but also brevity and conciseness of communication. It’s not that they have the attention span of a child but, rather, they have been conditioned to quickly process high volumes of information. They are also very visual; not surprising considering that the average young adult watches over 500 videos on line a month – from a collection of 75+ billion videos available on line (Comscore Video Metrix survey 2014). Given the gargantuan volume of information available digitally, millennials tend to be very selective about the information (or services) they want. And, in the process of getting them, they seek to have a personalized experience.

Given all that has been written about millennials, one would think the differences run far deeper. But the evidence seems to indicate that is not the case. IBM conducted a study about the preferences and behavioral patterns of millennials in the workplace. Their findings: Other than for their technology savvy, millennials are a lot like their older colleagues. They have similar career aspirations, desire for recognition and level of comfort making decisions on their own. A Fizziology report on social media communications found that, by and large, all three generations converse on-line about popular social topics a comparable amount.

So how to best engage millennials? Here are some tips from the experts:

– With smartphones and tablets as their standard equipment, mobile presence is a must. The key here is that the on-line experience across platforms has to be seamless, regardless of the device being used.

– Keep in mind that millennials span three decades and, as a result, there is a lot of variation in their interests and preferences. The youngest millennials are still teenagers while the oldest ones are marrying and having children. When developing an engagement strategy, you need to ensure you utilize the channels and platforms that your target millennial segment utilizes. Just as important, the content you create needs to be relevant to the channel where it is published. Otherwise, it will not resonate with your target audience.

– Appeal to their visual sense and desire for a personalized experience by using interactive applications. Applications that allow the user to zoom, spin, rotate and interact with an object virtually the same way one would with a real product will provide for a more engaging and personalized experience.

– Keep the communications brief and concise. Otherwise you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention.

You might note that there is little mention about social media here. While social media is a great tool for marketing products and services to millennials, it has limited utility in eGovernment applications. Why? Because of privacy concerns. Millennials are keenly aware of data mining practices of social media providers and they want to keep aspects of their life such as their dealings with the government private. To wit, a recent Accenture #AFSFedPulse survey found that only 20% of millennials living in the Washington DC metro-area would use Facebook or Twitter to receive information from the government.

So, yes, millennials are different – but not so different.

Citizen Engagement Digital Policy

New How-to Guide for Assessing Digital Citizen Engagement

The World Bank has just released a wonderful publication titled: Evaluating Digital Citizen Engagement – A Practical Guide.

This publication – manual, I should call it – is a 172-page comprehensive “how-to” guide for assessing as well as developing digital citizen engagement (DCE) programs. The title is somewhat misleading as the guide is written in such a way that it could be used for many more applications – not just DCE. The guide was developed principally for “development professionals who already have some knowledge of the concepts of citizen engagement (CE) and evaluation and who are interested in understanding more about the contribution that a digital approach can bring to citizen engagement and how that contribution can best be evaluated.”

At its core, the guide provides a methodology for evaluating the extent to which digital tools have contributed to citizen engagement and understanding the impact that the introduction of technology has had on CE processes.

Not only does it provide tools for evaluating the impact of DCE programs, it also provides a step-by-step description of how to design, implement and assess the effectiveness of a DCE program. Chapter 4, which comprises 40% of the document, presents a detailed methodology for scoping, designing, planning & implementing, analyzing, and testing and reporting of the findings. For examples, the guide draws from actual studies done in Brazil, Cameroon, Uganda and Kenya.

When evaluating a DCE program, there is a set of interconnected issues and factors that need to be considered, such as program goals, power dynamics and control, who participates, intended and achieved results and choices of technology to use. All of these issues and factors need to be considered and evaluated to ensure the DCE program addresses the right things and achieves the intended results. The guide introduces a very useful construct called a “lens” for evaluating these interrelated components of a DCE program. A lens is a way of looking at the DCE from a specific perspective. Think of it as a criteria. There guide defines five lenses:

Table 1

OBJECTIVE, CONTROL, PARTICIPATION, TECHNOLOGY and EFFECTS. Table 1 describes what each lens looks at and the action it entails. This multifaceted view afforded by “applying” the lenses will help ensure that important and subtle issues are not overlooked.

Another aspect of the guide that I really liked was that it is replete with resources: tips, examples, readings, DCE projects, software tools. If you’re considering implementing or evaluating a DCE program, this free publication is for you.