London’s digital story is only ‘half told’ stated Theo Blackwell, the recently appointed first Chief Digital Officer for London. He was outlining the priorities he wants to pursue in his role as we develop the Smart London Plan, this notion struck a chord with me.
On one hand, it could be taken to mean that there is a long road ahead, on the other it could be interpreted that we need to get better at telling our digital story. As a Smart London Board member, I believe it’s both. We are at the beginning of an exciting journey, improving how we tell London’s digital story also means explaining how digital fits with the wider narrative of the city’s future development.
It is essential to emphasise the importance of Smart London as not an end in itself, but a means to realise the city’s wider ambitions. Whether they’re for the environment, the economy, transport, social and economic inclusiveness or any other key areas of future change, we need to show how digital can support positive outcomes across all those policy areas and more.
Take the environment, The Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy has ambitious plans to meet zero carbon and zero waste targets and drive the development of a circular economy for London. By connecting people and businesses more effectively, sharing information to help drive behavioural change, data and digital will play a huge role in making these goals a reality. It’s a great example of the new type of thinking needed to find solutions to London’s broader development goals.
But we must remember London is not a single entity, its incredible vibrancy is credit to its distinct and diverse boroughs. To make sure that citizens in all those boroughs benefit from digital, we need to improve the way we tell the collaboration story too. The new London Office of Technology and Innovation is at the heart of addressing this; demonstrating the “start of the possible”, working to encourage data sharing and common approaches, delivering greater benefits to the greatest number of people.
Sharing our story with others and telling the stories of our counterparts, such as Singapore, Paris and New York, can highlight what’s possible, and will inspire citizens. And being inspired will be a major goal as the Smart London Plan is developed. Just think, creating a future market for city data could unlock a huge amount of creativity and innovation!
We need to think about not just what story we’re telling, but who’s telling it and why. The citizen’s voice, their wants and needs must be at the heart of the plan, particularly as we move from planning into action. People need to feel direct benefits of Smart London in their day to day lives.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this – come help write the #SmartLondonStory! Please leave a comment or explore more topics related to the digital transformation of cities.
See this post on LinkedIn: Smart London – Becoming Storytellers.