Introduction given at ESOF16 on July 25th in Manchester.
I’ve been working with Nominet R&D for the past year looking at the progress of over 140 global smart city projects and I wanted to take advantage of my five minutes here to talk talk about what I see are the future challenges of smart cities in a rapidly degrading economic and political global landscape.
Most smart city projects have usually taken a technology-first approach and relied heavily on government and EU funding. After a panel debate I organised last week on Brexit at the meetup, it’s safe to assume we will lose large parts of that funding as EU money disappears and the UK government aims to patch that up with existing funds.
With this, we, strangely, may return to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ message: we will have to get a lot of things done ourselves and own up, as citizens to not only our rights, but our responsibilities in building a future society which is becoming technologically more literate (thanks to Facebook, Pokemon Go and other accessible, comprehensive platforms) but cash-poor. We, I think, owe it to help groups of people find their voice in a world of global market economics.
I’ve been working on a project called Made Near You to help food producers across the UK build a minimal viable digital presence, make themselves findable by tourists and newcomers who move to the country from big cities when they have kids.
It’s not that it’s addressing a complex city problem, but it may help small businesses around the country to participate in these data-laden economies they perhaps haven’t connected to previously.
I’m also interested in championing bottom-up projects such as the Air Quality Egg, the Smart Citizen kit, Buffalo Grid and the Oxford Flood Network. Projects which have very small teams who are under-funded because they address complex problems associated with climate change. But we will not be able to rely on our national and local governments to do ‘the right thing’.
The answer for some, may lie in distancing themselves from the problems of local economies, that is the privilege of the few however.
For the rest of us will have to support these products ourselves. That will become the new normal, the new meaning of smart citizenship, whatever country we may be citizen of on paper.