Smart communities need the human touch
There is a concern in some districts that in our quest to embrace smart living, we risk destroying the fabric of our communities. We already live in a world where digitization of communication is making us more insular. When was the last time any of us took out time for a social gathering with our neighbours? It is not fair to simply blame technology though; modern urban life has also to be blamed.
From a community standpoint, the belief is that bringing efficiencies in small things like cooking, travelling, shopping, etc., helps residents save on time. In this, the smart community philosophy is aligned with technologists – save time by making mundane activities easily manageable and more efficient. However, where the problem occurs is that we forget that saving time does not always translate into better living. This is why it is necessary to radically change the way we design and build communities.
At Planet Smart City, we are constantly looking at how we can do this and one way we have identified is by ensuring the social innovation practices we develop are implemented. Our Community Manager takes the lead on this, they are the ones who interact with residents, understand their needs and expectations and ensure these are met on a daily basis.
A small, thoughtful approach but we are seeing it pay dividends in our projects. Our Community Managers come from a wide variety of fields and with different expertise. Technology’s role is to help us develop the tools around them, which help bring the benefits alive to the residents. This is an example of how technology and human intervention can work together to uplift the standard of living.
Community management means providing easy access to residents to do what they want to but don’t have means to do them. A ‘smart’ solution need not necessarily be restricted to the digital platform but it is necessary to give residents a platform they are comfortable with and that is usually the digital platform. This is where smart communities can go beyond just the technology solution.
For instance, sharing knowledge using a digital platform can elevate the quality of life by allowing us to conduct mental well-being consultations, creating a more inclusive community by conducting sign language sessions through a mobile app or ensuring older citizens can share valuable teachings with the younger generation. The possibilities are limitless! This improvement of life does not need to be restricted to just the community and can extend to surrounding communities and families.
For example, by making the purchase of local produce from surrounding regions easier for community residents, we can help create a more self-sustaining society while helping the marginalized sections of society. Technology has a huge role to play in elevating life but to have a truly happy and fulfilling life requires something more – it requires to reconnect with neighbours, enjoy the smaller things together and help one another. And while technology can provide the platform, it is up to us to take advantage of it.
Chief Digital Strategy Officer,
Planet Smart City
Community Management – India,
Planet Smart City