Small steps

I’ve been thinking about the “how” of Smarter and reading the vision for Smarter Cities at is an inspirational one. But for those who already have commitments on resources (people, budget specifically) then the approach to Smarter can be achieved with smaller steps.

Let’s think about a single view of the citizen and what that may mean. A local government will comprise of many departments and for one citizen, lets call him Dave, each department may have their own copy of his contact and personal details. It is quite possible that one department will have more than one record for Dave, perhaps one with an old address and one with a newer one. And neither of those records may be as up to date as one held by another department. If Dave calls in, who do they think they are talking to? Can they allow him to access services online and be sure they are providing to the right Dave? Do they offer the same services to all the different versions of Dave?

But, we’re taking a small steps approach so we can’t rip out these IT Systems and start again, trying to consolidate into one. After all, there could be reason for having many different systems. What we need is to implement a master data management layer between systems or components that request citizen data and the databases that store data. MDM can interrogate the various data sources and present one consolidated, and more accurate, view of Dave. A view consistent for all departments.

We can increase certainty that Dave will be offered the right services, charged correctly for council tax, given the appropriate benefits and so on.

Perhaps with this single view the next step is to provide multi-channel access to the same services.

However, a local government may prefer a first step to be focused on internal operations. IBM’s Intelligent Operating Center enables a city leader to have a view of the performance of the local government and the city. The council could monitor how waste disposal is performing or how traffic is flowing on the city’s roads. But, if we are thinking in small steps it may prefer to employ intelligence capability, such as that provided by IBM Cognos to interrogate data and tackle Absenteeism and the associated costs. It can identify if the same people are continually off sick at the same time, or regularly after certain sporting events. But the patterns identified will not always be such. It could be possible to identify others not necessarily associated with questionable behaviour. What if a local government came across patterns which would indicate a member of staff had depression? What are the ethical implications?

So, not everything need be done in a big bang. It’s quite possible, and often preferable, to take smaller, yet still significant, steps to becoming Smarter.


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