CONNECTING YOUR COMMUNITY: A better vision for the future of citizens, business and government.
Imagine the day in the life of a council manager in the future… On your way out the door, you run into your neighbour who tells you how great the new council portal was when he submitted his building plans. He was also able to look up tree removal guidelines and book an on-site inspection for the next day.
In the office, you take a look at the month’s data reports – parking fines, rubbish collections, pet registrations, library usage…you can see how your council is tracking against other months, and also against other local governments. It’s interesting to look at the fleet management stats – since you introduced the new ‘safe driver’ system, costs have been cut by a quarter and WH&S compliance is a breeze.
Then it’s time to meet with the social media guys, who have come up with a great new app for identifying dumped rubbish and graffiti. Now locals can simply snap a photo and send it – you can pinpoint the location of the problem from the geo-tag and send someone out there to sort it out.
Another team provides a demo of the new smart bins. Council workers won’t have to waste time checking them individually now – thanks to the inbuilt sensors, workers will be alerted when a particular bin is full and can then empty it.
For morning tea, you head to the local bakery, noting on the council’s parking app the closest free spot. The bakery has been nominated for ‘Best Vanilla Slice’ in the area. You can vote on the council app, online or on Facebook, and customers can also check out their scores for food handling. Council has provided free Wi-Fi all down the main street, which makes it even easier.
While there, you log on and check out some of the virtual communities that are springing up in the local area. There are groups for everything from dog walking to free fruit sharing. You receive an alert on your phone letting you know that today‘s the last day to enroll your son in kinder and book his next check with the local maternal health centre. They share information with your GP, so all records are updated at the same time. Handy being able to do it all from the one place, rather than making endless phone calls.
Then it’s back home to finish off that report – with access to information on the go, you can even hold a web conference with a counterpart in another state.
Back to the present
At Telstra, we call this vision for the future, Connected Communities. It may sound futuristic, but the reality is that much of the technology and the platforms behind it already exist today.
At its heart, the vision is all about making connections. Being deeply social, we thrive on the feeling of connection to other people. We want to feel the sense of community we remember from the good old days.
In some ways, technology has come to be seen as the enemy of community. But as digital technology exponentially expands the possibilities for connecting with one another, the balance is shifting back the other way. Technology can now bring us closer in safer, more welcoming, energised, more efficient and liveable communities.
A Connected Community is one in which citizens, businesses and local governments can come together through digital engagement to revitalise business and public spaces, be more competitive, attract investment, promote safety and security, share in better public amenities, promote sustainable living, and encourage tourism, visitation and a strong local economy.
Every Connected Community is different, but they are all places that improve quality of life and connectedness. Connected Communities offer smart technology solutions – working separately and together – to address the challenges faced by urban, rural or regional populations.
Of course, much coverage over recent times has been devoted to the roll-out of smart mega-cities, with massive investment in smart electricity grids, public transport and more. All well and good for those with multibillion dollar budgets, but how does this translate on a local government level? Working within real budget constraints, the question is, how can we leverage the best of the latest technology to connect the local community, manage council resources, and serve local citizens and businesses better? And it is possible. With the consumerisation of IT – the way apps and social media and other platforms are increasingly entering the workplace – the barriers to entry are lowering by the day.
It’s about people, not just technology
Of course, while it’s intriguing to think about the applications of technology to such issues as street lighting, rubbish bins and transport, let’s not forget the real reason we need to connect our communities: people. It’s about making meaningful differences to the daily life of the local business or resident – about making engaging with council as easy as possible and streamlining services so that things ‘just happen’.
It’s about making the business of government easier too –through products and services to enable collaboration, sensors to automate processes, and analytics to provide insight. Gathering information about the city, and encouraging its use, helps councils to learn, plan and innovate.
Underpinning all this are resources such as secure, high-performance, network infrastructure (something we know a bit about at Telstra) as well as technology solutions, such as apps and messaging platforms, that may be integrated with community assets (lights, bins, parking, schools, libraries, etc.)
From A to B and beyond
The vision is a powerful one. Getting there, though, is no small challenge. Budgets, skill sets and knowledge are critical, but in most councils all have to come from the same small pool of resources. Meanwhile, technology – the enabler – is changing at a pace too fast for individual organisations to keep up. Multiple vendors need to be managed, while the latest digital innovations need to be integrated to work as an effective whole.
So what’s the best way to move forward?
At Telstra, we believe that small, measurable, achievable steps can pave the way to a truly Connected Community. With the right partner beside you, you can take simple steps to get more value out of the data you do have, to open up new and better channels of citizen engagement and create efficient processes, sustainable over the long term.
Technology should not stand between you and your vision for your city. Instead, it should be the bridge between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow.
In a Connected Community.