How Future Cities Can Engage Citizens

Nick Quin

Now that 70% of our global population lives in urban areas, we must start using innovation to improve the lives of citizens to ensure our survival.

With this in mind, one challenge facing future cities is how to engage all citizens equally and ensure that everyone can access the same innovation and opportunities to improve their cities and their lives. If we do not ensure equality, our future cities risk becoming exclusive enclaves for the elite.

So how can we engage the citizens of future cities?

Close the digital gap

According to a report on the digitization of public services in Boston, moving paper forms online saved Bostonians a little under 10,000 hours. But while digitization is essential to engaging citizens, it is useless in cities with digital gaps.

To truly engage citizens, future cities must ask important questions about Internet access, including identifying those citizens who are left out. It’s also important to ask if citizens are able to access assistance if they don’t understand online services. By reaching citizens through traditional channels, future cities can gauge the extent of their digital gap and consider solutions.

Solutions to the digital gap can be seen in Toronto, which is leading the world as a future city. Its public libraries offer free Internet access to every citizen, while its Digital Literacy Day will offer support to those without web access at home.

Involve citizens in every decision stage

At the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, SAP asked more than 500 attendees from 45 countries what they wanted from their future cities. The results painted an interesting picture: Many millennials wanted more efficient public transport options, but at the same time, they were unwilling to engage with services that invaded their privacy.

These results help us understand the importance of involving citizens at the decision stage. In this case, imagine if a future city polled millennial citizens and discovered they wanted better public transport. Now imagine if that city tried to optimize transit times by using their millennial citizens’ mobile data. I’m sure you can imagine the outrage that would ensue.

To avoid situations like this, future cities must use innovation to involve its citizens. Instead of seeking feedback only once, organizations should use CRM solutions to seek feedback from citizens at every decision stage. In doing so, cities can be sure they are making decisions their citizens will engage with.

Foster sharing economies

Since the recession, future cities have seen a rise in sharing economies. Within these economies, services like Uber enable citizens to engage with their cities by exploring and navigating them in an affordable way. These services are not limited to rideshares; we are now seeing similar services for everything from housing to food.

For the sake of engaging citizens, future cities must foster such digital services. By establishing legislation and offering insurance for sharing services, future cities can engage citizens to improve their city’s quality of life.

While the future will always be uncertain, we can be sure that the ideal future city begins by engaging citizens. By ensuring equal access to information, legislation, and innovation, we can effectively engage citizens in building a better future.

For more on this topic, see Engagement Isn’t Just For Brands: Citizens Want A Connected Public Sector.


Nick Quin

About Nick Quin

Nick Quin is Regional Manager, Southern Region for SAP New Zealand based in Wellington. Nick has been involved in the transformation of organisations across Asia Pacific for over 25 years, with a passion for leading & developing teams, who are committed to deliver the business outcomes sought by our customers.