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Blog - How can governments of the future be more human? Surprisingly, technology can be the solution

At the 2018 World Government Summit held in early February 2018 in Dubai, author Malcolm Gladwell spoke about the significant changes governments need to make in order to meet the challenges of the future. He highlighted three critical areas:

  • Firstly, governments will need to solve mysteries rather than puzzles. This means that instead of gathering the relevant pieces of data and assembling them to decide a course of action, they will need to sift through massive amounts of existing data to unravel the mystery of what is happening to act.
  • Secondly, governments will need to provide highly individualised solutions to their citizens rather than large group-based social programming.
  • Finally, in a time of high instability and uncertainly across much of the world, governments will need to reassure and provide a sense of security with a high level of empathy – something most large operational bureaucratic governments have little to no experience in.

In short, says Gladwell, governments of the future will need to become more ‘human’.

To meet this challenge, governments need help.  Innovation and the advanced urban services (AUS) sector can help governments meet this challenge.

At the World Government Summit, the first ever Global Happiness Policy Report was launched, which acts as a companion piece to the UN’s annual World Happiness Report.  The Policy Report ‘helps to fill the gap on how to help countries in well-being with the science of happiness and policy applications.’

Future Cities Catapult contributed to Chapter 7: Happy Cities in a Smart World. We provided global best practice and recommendations to cities on how to meet the challenges of the future, with a focus on happiness and well-being in the urban space.  In short – how cities can become more human in serving the growing population of urban residents with innovation and technology; either through solving mysteries, providing individual solutions or increasing safety and security.

The chapter provides best practice examples and recommendations in several key categories: economy, people, governance, mobility, environment and living.

Advanced urban services solutions from around the world were provided as examples for how cities can approach challenges within these six categories.  The following are several examples of the approach cities can take to meet these challenges.

Solving Mysteries Not Puzzles

In Prince Albert Canada, a programme called Community Hub was launched to help the city become more proactive in their human services systems.  In essence, how can they make better use of data to move from solving puzzles to solving mysteries.

Under the old system, if the city responded to a report of drug use, abuse or a mental illness incident, the person was treated by the health system (which used and stored its own data) and as needed, transferred the person to the justice system (which also used and stored its own data).  No other factors were taken into account and the data was not cross-referenced. In many cases, vulnerable young people were caught up in a vicious cycle of the justice system and labelled as delinquents which in turn had long-term social service costs for the city and province.

Community Hub began to gather data over time, connect it across social service providers, across families and with integrated risk factors to create a bigger picture of what was happening when a person, especially a young person, was involved in illegal activity. The programme was able to highlight families and children at risk, provide better services earlier and deter potential illegal activity.  Solving the mystery not only had a significantly positive impact on families and children at risk, it also resulted in immense social service and justice system cost savings.

Providing Individualised Services

Being an entrepreneur comes with many rewards, but also many barriers and challenges.  Navigating a new market, seeking investors, supporters, new buyers and partners, all whilst attempting to set up a new company, sometimes in a new country, can add to both the entrepreneur’s frustration and their chances of success.

To cut through the red tape, the Dubai Department for Economy recently created ‘Rashid’, which translates to English as ‘Guide’. Rashid is an A.I. enhanced multi-service platform that provides individualised solutions to individual questions for Dubai’s emerging entrepreneurs. The service has an A.I. chat bot function which can provide answers in a natural language, helping guide entrepreneurs through a complex system to get directly to the correct answer or department that they need.

Providing reassurance and security with a high level of empathy

Women and girls can face a difficult path to navigate in large cities where sexual harassment is usually not reported and difficult to investigate. In the city of Quito, Ecuador, 83% of women reported feeling unsafe whilst travelling on public transport for fear of sexual harassment and a third have been victims of sexual harassment or assault but only 6% file a formal complaint.

The city established a mobile platform called ‘Bajale al Acoso’, which translates to English as ‘No to Harassment’. The app allows women and girls to send a text reporting an incident of harassment to a main control centre which responds within 3 minutes and also sets off an alarm system on the train or bus. Victims or targets of harassment are then personally escorted from the next stop and the perpetrator can be identified and detained. The app has been met with overwhelming use, an increase in cases being judged in court as well as raising overall awareness in creating a safer and more inclusive city for women and girls.

Advanced Urban Services Facilitating Human Centred Governments

Chapter 7 of the Global Happiness Policy Report opens with ‘Plato’s assertion that the “city is what it is because the citizens are what they are”’. As cities around the world work to manage an exponentially expanding population and their needs in a more personalised, human manner, technology and innovation need to be the mechanism used to address these challenges. Indeed, technology and innovation can bridge the gap between governments and citizens at a very human level.

Future Cities Catapult is the UK’s centre for Urban excellence and the gateway to some of the world’s best Advanced Urban Service providers in the UK.  We deliver urban innovation by increasing the understanding of city challenges. We advise on the role of integrated solutions and champion technologies that increase the inclusivity, safety, resilience and sustainability of cities.

Dr Amy Hochadel is the Global Cities Lead at Future Cities Catapult.  Dr Hochadel recently participated in the World Government Summit held in early February 2018 in Dubai, where she was a contributor to the Global Happiness Policy ReportHer new book, Local Leadership in a Global Era focuses on the types of policies local governments need to adopt and the behaviours they need to exhibit if they hope to thrive in the global innovation economy.

You can download the full Global Happiness Policy Report here.

You can reach Dr Amy Hochadel on Twitter or LinkedIn


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