By Debbie Fisher, Market and Consumer Insight, Alcatel-Lucent
The U.S., Finland, Germany, Japan?
I bet your list wouldn’t include Saudi Arabia. Well, it should.
As highlighted in Alcatel-Lucent’s research on megatrends, Megatrends: a wave of change impacting the future, connected citizens or Netizens, are using digital media to interact with elected officials, governments and the public sector in many ways. One key characteristic of a netizen is they actively take their opinions online.
Osama Natto, a Saudi building developer and entrepreneur who we interviewed as part of our smart city citizens study (check out the video below) was proud to tell us about innovative e-government portals and tools offered now within the Greenfield cities. In designing these cities from the ground up, government officials and developers recognized the opportunity to equip cities with the ICT infrastructure that allows two-way communication between citizens and officials.
And citizens see the tangible value! The e-government portal saves not only time (several days in many cases) but also emotional frustration and worry. One young woman went as far as saying one of the aspects she appreciates the most in her relocation to a smart city was e-government. “Most people don’t like to deal with government agencies because it’s such a headache, but getting anything you need from the government online has made my life so much easier – it’s one of the best services.”
Responses like this reinforce the correlation between involvement and communications technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and high speed broadband networks. Almost every citizen we interviewed across the globe, nearly 100 people, expressed willingness to get involved in sharing their time and ideas with government officials and even service providers to bring new services to market. Why? Because they see involvement can improve their life. Save time. Save money. Simplify complexity. Eliminate red tape. Fewer headaches, more happiness.
There’s also an equalizing aspect that can’t be ignored. No longer do citizens have to find the right person to get their voice heard. E-government sites and m-Government services are giving access to all levels and agencies, including mayors, regulators, and top decision makers, to nearly everyone. Through smartphones, with penetration rates over 50% in some mature markets and increasing internet penetration in schools, offices, homes, more and more everyday citizens have equal access.
Lastly, one active, engaged citizen, or netizen, can really change the world. Not only are citizens improving their own lives, they are using digital media to change the lives of others. Did you ever want to report graffiti, potholes, or darkened streetlights to make your neighborhood safer? While researching smart cities I heard about a cool app out of New Haven Connecticut which allows citizens to do just that. SeeClickFix offers a platform that connects citizens with government officials – and reports over 125,000 issues fixed. Sometimes it’s all about fixing one block at a time that matters.
I’m sure you have similar stories where the voice of an ordinary person has been heard and is making a difference in the lives of others either through e-government, m-government, or other portals enabled by the ICT infrastructure.
The role of citizens has certainly changed with the advent of mobile technology. And I expect it will continue to expand given it’s so much easier to communicate with people we’ve never met. One citizen in Chattanooga wished he was younger so he’d be able to see firsthand the changes which will make a difference to our global society.
Why wait? Let’s all act as Netizens now.