Help make Peterborough a truly Smart City

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Peterborough was awarded the title of “Smart City of the Year” in 2015, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.

This award was granted due to the city’s initial commitment to embrace new technologies and use them to manage our public services.

A truly Smart City, for example, uses sensors to monitor air pollution and traffic. This information allows policy makers to decide which road networks to improve, or which areas need enhanced public transport.

Amsterdam also uses “smart” technologies to make its energy usage more efficient: the city dims the lights in places, and at times where footfall is minimal. This simple change has allowed the Dutch to save a great deal of money.

Smart technologies could also be used in adult social care: for example, sensors can inform doctors if someone has experienced a fall.

This is far more efficient than waiting for a carer to come in; furthermore, early interventions are likely to save more lives.

The problem for our city is not the availability of smart technologies; as anyone with one of the new Amazon or Google speakers knows, much of it is already making its way into our homes. It’s a question of what challenges we should tackle first, and what would have the greatest impact.

In addressing this issue, the Labour Group and I would like to take our cue from the Open Source movement.

Open Source software, that is, software compiled by a community of users who aren’t necessarily paid to do it, and whose products are neither paid for nor copyrighted, drives our mobile phones and many of our essential public services. It works by gathering ideas and getting consent.

In the same way, the Labour Group would like to adopt this approach in the application of smart technologies. Open Source shows that the wisdom of the crowd often trumps that of an individual. Furthermore, I sense that there is a fatigue with politicians who offer a prospectus, and once elected, tend to regard the public as an annoyance until the next election. This is archaic and quite frankly, it isn’t working.

Therefore, we want to govern in an Open Source, consultative manner.

So, having said this, and with the aforementioned examples in hand, I would like to invite members of the public to contact me at shaz.nawaz@peterborough.gov.uk. What, in your opinion, is the most pressing need for the application of these technologies? Traffic? Pollution? Social care? Perhaps we ought to address the lack of consistent broadband speeds in our city first.

Perhaps more of our public services should be accessible via mobile phone; perhaps cabinet meetings, like those of the national government of Estonia, should be broadcast over the internet.

We want to hear from you; no idea in this instance is too outlandish, rather, the Labour Group and I hope that this will spark the imagination of our citizens and build up a consensus for us to work together in improving our shared home, and making it a truly smart city.