Why Your Smart City Strategy Needs to Include Citizen Engagement

Cities worldwide are increasingly turning to Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensor networks, smart devices, and meters to collect citizen-generated data. This data is gathered as people go about their day, providing insights and nuance into how people interact with the world around them, and more specifically with public services such as transportation, energy use, and more.

Smart city data provides insights into how people actually behave, as opposed to how they may claim to. For example, people are less likely to self-report unpopular or embarrassing attitudes or habits due to social desirability bias. Recall bias can lead to respondents inavertedly providing inaccurate information in surveys or polls. Poor survey design can also result in the misunderstanding of questions asked, leading to ambiguous outcomes.

Smart cities can make use of citizen-generated data to respond more impactfully to citizen needs by optimizing public services and cutting down on inefficiencies in an evidence-based manner. As real-time insights become increasingly robust, governments and agencies can even respond to issues as they arise.

Open Data Day 2018

On March 4, groups from around the world will celebrate Open Data Day by showcasing how they are using open data in their communities. This annual event is an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society.

As lack of trust between the public and institutions continues to hover at an all-time low, opening up data is a crucial element for rebuilding public trust. For too long, obfuscation and lack of transparency has resulted in cynicism and declining rates of civic participation. Open data provides citizens with gain greater insight into government service delivery and spending, and empower them to hold decision-makers accountable.

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer: “The Battle for Truth”

Every year, the Edelman Trust Barometer measures the trust in institutions (government, business, media and NGOs) across 28 countries. In 2017, the Edelman Trust Barometer found a “global implosion of trust” amongst the general population – the majority of respondents do not believe that the overall system is working for them.

In 2018, while trust amongst both the informed public and general population has not improved on average, there is a distinct split between countries with extreme trust gains and declines. Most strikingly, aggregate trust has declined in the United States by 37 points: a 23 point drop amongst the informed public, and 9 points in the general population. On the other end of the spectrum, aggregate trust in China has risen by 27 points.

Painkillers vs. Vitamins: Two Approaches to Citizen Engagement

“Prevention is better than cure.” In diverse fields ranging from healthcare to public safety to education, leaders have long recognized that the preventative approach is crucial for averting problems before they occur. For example, screening for hypertension and managing the condition is preferable to waiting for a heart attack to occur before treating it. It is far easier to identify and mitigate issues early, rather than letting them fester and intensify over time.

When gathering feedback on controversial community issues, the same paradigm can help reduce challenges associated with the public input process. The need to balance the interests and perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups can be contentious and divisive. The “painkiller” vs. “vitamins” paradigm helps illustrate the necessity of engaging with the public early in order to ensure an effective and productive citizen engagement process.

Customer Success: Bridging Divides on Controversial Issues

In Elkhart County, Indiana, County Commissioners were seeking public input on a proposed rezoning to build an immigration detention center, which would house up to 1,400 immigrants being held and facing possible deportation.