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A Secure Method for Digitally-Driven Citizen Services
Richard Budel, CIO - Smart Cities & CTO - Government & Public Sector Western Europe, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
We have been discussing smart city concepts for about 20 years now. It all started in the early 2000s with the induction of electronic service delivery using the Internet to the citizens. With the invention of new technologies over these years, we thought about changing our service delivery model. Unlike the industrial revolution 4.0, smart city deals with people instead of machines. Technology companies have been looking for opportunities to deploy technology in support of citizen service delivery while, on the other hand, the government agencies have been aiming to adopt new-age technologies. However, given that the services are implementing in an unscientific manner, this shortcoming has led to the emergence of smart city environment characterized by several independent and discreet smart city services. These technology-oriented services have very little ability to integrate application services and aggregate data across these smart services. In the last three to four years, the focus has been on driving the value of technology rather than manipulating societies to serve the technologies. We are now looking at integrating those independent, smart city services to share data and application services in a secure manner. To explain with a real- world scenario, sensors for traffic, air quality, and sound pollution in a highway can now be integrated with each other for better traffic and pollution control. What we are trying to get at is a smart city environment where the needs of the people become the deciding factor. The aim is to shift from a smart city as a technical output exercise to a social or environmental impact.
The Best Approach to Stay Aligned with the Trends
There has to be a philosophical shift of moving away from the idea that technology is magic, and only a few people understand it, and that technology who understand technology have the power to make the decisions. Politicians and citizens need to understand that technology is not magic. And if such a change doesn’t happen, it will lead to a technological dead-end. The other emerging trend is the consolidation of services into a single platform. Google, Facebook, and Amazon are offering a myriad of services to their users under one recognizable brand experience. With the emergence of IoT, big data, and cloud, the seamless orchestration of information in the wired and wireless environment across desktops and mobile devices needs to tapped for efficient citizen governance. Aggregating data and services will give rise to the idea of a unified governance model for better citizen experience.
When we talk about smart city, we are talking about people instead of machines
Advice to Aspiring CIOs for Smart City Projects
Coming from the public sector background with a policy and planning mindset, I focus more on strategy prior to thinking about implementation. Based on my experience, what is crucial for us, as a company, is to help government clients and the citizens understand the implications of the decision they are undertaking. Because they are thinking about technology as ‘magic,’ they tend to wash their hands off any issue that is related to technology. For example, when I talk to the representatives of a city, one of the common topics is the usage of video cameras. One of the challenges that I place in front of our clients is that how can we accomplish everything without the usage of cameras, as it has a very strong impact on the privacy of the citizens and the related legislations. If we really examine what the city is trying to implement, then we often find that we can achieve as much as 99 percent efficiency without using a single video camera.
We can use radars instead of cameras. Radar functions exactly like a camera when it comes to parking management and traffic control, without the violation of privacy compliance. However, the only task radar won’t do is to personally identify the characteristics of a criminal perpetrating a crime. But the question is how many cameras does one need to detect the criminal. As many leaders in the government space believe that any technology should protect user anonymity, departments such as public safety and transportation are forced to justify the need for a sensor that can identify a user. The idea is that most of the governance tasks can be completed without putting people’s identity and personally identifiable data (PII) at risk. By allowing the capture of PII data in a restricted manner, what we can accomplish is a much smaller pool of sensitive data. We can eliminate the barriers for more cities to adopt new sensor-driven technologies, with cameras as an option. As sensitive data is reduced, cities can be more confident in sharing data with different parties and stakeholders for the better citizen services delivery. By taking such measures, we are removing the barriers between government and technology.
At the moment, it is easy to exchange information. This is balanced by the fact that data extraction is difficult as most of the databases exist in hundreds of monolithic blocks that are complexly interconnected with each other. A smart city environment requires effective data management mechanism for secure leveraging of public data. Being pioneers in data gathering, we control the classification of data according to specifications such as public health, public safety, email validity, and more.
My advice to fellow peers is to enlighten the government about the effect of policies they have in place for smart city projects. A technological shutdown due to a cyber attack will make people lose their trust in technology, hampering our relationship with them. We, at Huawei, don’t own or deal with the end-data. We only provide opportunities for other companies to work with data in a transparent and compliant manner. It is imperative for our clients from the government expanse to understand how they can protect public data.