Think about it.
Your phone carrier knows who you are talking to. Uber knows where you are going. Facebook knows who your friends are. Amazon knows your purchase habits. Fitbit knows how much you exercise. etc. etc. etc.
Your entire life is producing data. You are the product.
Is this a good thing? Well, the short answer is it depends. It certainly has the potential to be. Modern companies are using data to become more efficient, and mostly we’ve embraced this trade-off as consumers. However we still get weary, and rightfully so, when lines get crossed and we feel the invasion of our privacy has gone too far.
It’s not black and white and there are a ton of challenges.
How many times a week do you read about these modern companies clashing with local government? Companies like Uber are resented by their regulated counterparts (i.e. yellow taxi cabs), and sometimes even the cities themselves. Same thing with AirBnB, which is often disliked by the hotel industry, local residents, and even the local elected body.
The thing is though: these companies are wildly successful and they aren’t going anywhere. They add real value to our every day life and should be embraced.
So why all of the friction?
There aren’t enough healthy ways for local governments to interact with these modern private companies and vise versa. Constituents lack the ability to entrust their data with a city “data bank” — a free market with attributed values. They have limited tools to ensure citizen safety, proper taxation, etc. That’s why it’s often unfair to view government as “behind the times” or “resistant to change” when in reality their glacial pace is largely attributable to an obligation to the taxpayer. It’s the job of these elected officials to understand how these technologies work, how they can best be regulated, and ultimately to protect the interests of their citizens while attempting to evaluate and adopt new technologies. This takes time when you’re stuck in a reactive, inherently not proactive system.
On the flip side, it’s way too difficult for these modern growing companies to keep up with compliance, taxation, and procurement from city to city — since each city’s laws, policies, and organizational structure is completely different. This becomes exponentially difficult if you are an international company like Uber, where laws in different countries add even more complexity to the equation.
There aren’t enough healthy ways for local governments to interact with modern private companies.
TL;DR If cities and technology do not establish a more symbiotic relationship, things will become very, very messy as more taxpayer resources are dedicated to procuring technology. Who really owns this data? Can it be used more efficiently? How can we avoid the future with a predicted waste in excess of $340B?
How do we best go about building smart, well-connected cities?
STAE (Symbiotic Technology & Ecology)
Data is already a crucial part of our daily lives; there are sensors on everything from our cities to our homes to ourselves. But if elected officials and municipal workers can’t effectively manage all of this data and use it for the general good, then our cities will drown in that data instead of using it to help urban residents and environments thrive.
That’s where stae comes in — stay tuned.
- Vanity Fair: Uber’s Plan for World Domination: A Board of Political Heavyweights
- NY Times: Airbnb Urges Mayors to ‘Please Tax Us’
- Fortune: Microsoft Wants to Show It’s Never Met a Connected Device it Can’t Handle
- Govtech Fund: The $400 Billion market hiding in plain sight
- The East African: Uber Taxi Wars in Kenya Highlight Tax Loopholes in Charging Technology
- Verizon News Center: Traffic Lights Are Getting Even Smarter and More Connected
- Grist: No parking? Self-driving cars could have a huge effect on our cities
- European Commission: SAEPP project procurers platform for new smart ambulance