Connecting Cities And Citizens

Holger Tallowitz

Mobility is not restricted to moving people or physical assets from A to B. Mobility is about connecting people and assets – things – and ideas, events, objects, locations, and data. Connectivity needs to be managed in a way that fulfills one task: putting digital at the service of the analog.

Mark Zuckerberg asked: “Is connectivity a human right?” Of course it is. It enables us to make use of the technological and technical progress, which is mainly driven by data and information processing. Connectivity is a human right because: “Everyone has the right of freedom to expression. This shall include freedom to hold opinions and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers…. “ (European Convention on Human Rights – Art. 10)

This means that public bodies have the obligation to provide the framework to build and extend the necessary infrastructure (i.e., 5G networks, public WiFi, LoRa, etc.), including the necessary legal framework. The challenge is that public bodies make decisions based on political expectations and interests rather than on real understanding of technical facts and evidence-based policy requirements. However, self-developing ecosystems (see cryptocurrency, shared economy, 3D printing, etc.) do not ask public authorities whether they can work or what directions to go. They just do it.

Many of these self-developing ecosystems happen in medium to large cities where academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), utilities, transportation companies, startups, and municipal government leaders foster the power of connectivity.

Mobile connectivity can, with the right support by governments, NGOs, academia, companies, and international bodies (like the UN), help the human race address a lot of today’s challenges such as:

  • Access to education and healthcare
  • Fight against hunger and poverty
  • Better use of natural resources, instead of just consuming them
  • Improvements that make travel more convenient and safe

With over 50% of humans living in cities, the impacts of these improvements are amplified in urban environments.

It’s not all gold that glitters

We have not fully explored the ethical impacts of a connected world. AI will soon be stronger than many of us expect. AI is poised to become a full part of the connected world and needs to be designed with society’s interested in mind. The same is true with nanotechnologies or biological progress (e.g., transplanted organs grown from the patient’s own stem cells, CRISPR/CAS, etc.)

We need to ensure that security of connectivity is built-in by design. We still face security issues with various IoT interface protocols, for everything from traffic signals to transport management to the telecom networks that are the backbone of smart cities. This is an essential element of making connectivity useful for society.

All new devices, apps, data lakes, and other technologies must be made by design to serve the people. They must enable participation by and accept people with different attitudes, backgrounds, cognition, and cultures. Today’s standardization might be efficient for some, but it should be at the service of connecting people and their individuality, supporting exponential growth of knowledge, and improving life in cities and beyond.

Learn more about how urban innovation is improving and simplifying people’s lives.

Holger Tallowitz

About Holger Tallowitz

Holger Tallowitz is Director of Future Cities (Blockchain) at SAP. After finishing his studies in economics and foreign trade, he worked as a sales representative for a company in Berlin exporting electrical equipment and then joined SAP. Since 1990, Holger has been involved in various positions across SAP including a consultant for software implementation, manager for SAP R/3 basis and logistics solutions, account manager for a top 10 automotive customer, and a director of support for the Middle and Eastern Europe region.