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A Planet of Civic Laboratories

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Pecha kucha talk at MIT's Forum on Future Cities April 12, 2011.

Pecha kucha talk at MIT's Forum on Future Cities April 12, 2011.

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  • HERE’S MY THESISthree aspects of that
  • all of thisdepands on electricityso tokyo is one of the world’s smartest cities today, but only when your neighborhood isnt being subject to one of the scheduled rolling blackouts that darkened the screens in Shibuya Crossing
  • then surveillance – the fast uptake of smart city technologies in regions where its being used to reinforce government control and surveillance over populationsin all of these, it’s the poor that disproportionately will bear the cost of our shortcomings and failures
  • so how do we make smart cities more inclusive? more supportive of the poor?the good thing is that the technological foundations to do so are there, being put in place by industry and government
  • people who don’t have access to fixed infrastructure, propertyal lthe urban migrants we talk aboutesp in the developing world, mobile is the infrastructure for the marginalized
  • well, the foundations are clearly emerging
  • but its not just technology – we also need visions and solutions that focus on the problems of the poorthis future forecastmap we developedsupport from the Rockefeller Foundationto outline some of the opportunities that exist to shape a more inclusive smart cityand some of the tensions that are likely to emerge
  • what if the crowdsourcing of public services moves to the next step, unleashes citizens to take on some of the roles of governmentfromseeclickfix – a social high-tech 311 appto platforms like groundcrew which describes itself as “mission control for the people”
  • this could empower the poor and their advocates to tackle new problems with new resourcesbut this could severely impact the poor if not managed properlyallow governments to offload responsibilities or never take them on in the first place
  • really all we know about the poor is the bare minimum we’re required to collect once per decadefrom doing that better, like in Brazil where paper has been removed from the processto being as good as market researchers, using platforms like TxtEagle, a Media Lab spinoff that is working with the UN to build a 60-nation compensation-based survey platform using mobiles
  • but whenever governments or aid organizations collect data, there is the potential for misusethe tension is between collecting data that can inform good policy planning and designbut putting on the proper safeguards to prevent misuse
  • access will still be a barrier, and will fragment into many kinds of digital we’ll see public computing centers, where people who lack basic literacy on how to interact with computers and the web, to become hotspots of innovation in interfaces that really work for the poormove from terminals to more natural gestural and spoken interfaces, like the hacked Microsoft Kinect-based GUI developed by the Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group
  • even if they can overcome the most basic challenge of human-computer interactionfor the poor, getting access to urban information and data will mean navigating a proliferation of digital dividesnarrowband vs broadbandwalled gardens vs full webraw data vs understandable visualizations and summaries
  • WE MUST AVOID THIS AT ALL COSTS
  • I want to leave you with a framework created by Richard Heeks in the UK, for thinking about how technology can address poverty in the smart city
  • Transcript

    • 1. SMART CITIES WILL BE…
      GREEN
      SAFE
      CONVENIENT
      (AND POSSIBLY)FUN
      …IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO LIVE IN ONE
    • 2. a planet of civic laboratories the future of cities, informationand inclusion
      Anthony Townsend
      Research Director
      INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE
      Presented at
      Forum on Future Cities
      Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      April 12, 2011
    • 3. CURRENT VISIONS OF SMART CITIES
      DON’T ADDRESS
      THE NEEDS OF THE POOR
      AND EXCLUDED
    • 4. bugs in the smart cityis debugging a century-long project?
    • 5. brittle intelligencecan we secure the underlying foundation?
    • 6. surveillance societyare smart cities merely instruments of control?
    • 7. SO HOW CAN WE MAKE SMART CITIES MORE INCLUSIVE?
    • 8. mobile broadband
      =
      infrastructure for the marginalized
    • 9. a supercomputer in every pocket?
    • 10. open
      government data infrastructure
    • 11. envisioning pro-poor smart cities
      13 solution templates for inclusion
      www.iftf.org/inclusion
    • 12. crowdsourced public servicesfrom reporting to action
      “Gather the volunteers at your current location and come to E 17th. OK?”
    • 13. participatory public services
    • 14. continuous countingfrom the periodic census to on-demand surveys
    • 15. data control
    • 16. pro-poor interfacesre-inventing access at public computing centers
    • 17. proliferating digital divides
    • 18. ???
      Cisco, Shanghai, 2010
      =
      General Motors, New York, 1939
    • 19. a battle for the smart cityis something we can’t afford
    • 20. pro-poordoing things for the poor
      para-poorworking with the poor
      per-poorempowering innovationby the poor