Learn Smart Con­nec­tiv­ity from Dubai

The DQWeek (Chennai) - - EDIT - (ra­jneeshd@cy­ber­me­dia.co.in) Au­thor is SAN­JAY GUPTA He is the Vice Pres­i­dent and In­dia Coun­try Man­ager at NXP In­dia

have been talk­ing about smart cities in In­dia for quite a while now, though there seems to be a lot of con­fu­sion about what com­po­nents ex­actly should be in­cluded un­der them. My re­cent visit to Dubai sort of made me re­al­ize what ex­actly should be some of these fea­tures the fu­ture smart cities in In­dia could look at.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is prob­a­bly the most crit­i­cal com­po­nent a smart city should have. And I am not talk­ing of con­nec­tiv­ity in­volv­ing only a lim­ited elite class of cit­i­zen, but one which should im­pact all strata of so­ci­ety.

A city which is part of the 7 Emi­rates in a coun­try not even 50 years old (United Arab Emi­rates was founded only on 2nd De­cem­ber 1971) could show the way for many of our much older cities in this as­pect. The first thing should be to have the pro­vi­sion of pub­lic wi-fi ac­cess across all parts of cities with a de­cent band­width so that anyone can ac­cess all sort of pub­lic util­i­ties and ap­pli­ca­tions through any of their de­vices.

In In­dia, though how­ever many cities claim to be on pub­lic wi-fi, very few hardly have ac­ces­si­ble con­nec­tiv­ity from all pub­lic spots and that too of­ten is of du­bi­ous qual­ity. That hardly makes it ap­peal­ing and use­ful for the gen­eral pub­lic at large. Dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions and bu­reau­cratic wran­glings of­ten en­sure that in­fra­struc­ture to have all round con­nec­tiv­ity hardly works here.

True Dubai be­ing ruled un­der a benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship means they are free from these po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic machi­na­tions. What that has re­sulted in are good qual­ity con­nec­tiv­ity ac­cess any­time any­where, be it pub­lic mar­kets, bus stops, pub­lic mon­u­ments or even streets. That way any cit­i­zen with min­i­mum of tech­ni­cal savvy or aware­ness can ac­cess any pub­lic ap­pli­ca­tions. Just imag­ine if this can hap­pen here in In­dia, how ben­e­fi­cial they will be for com­mon cit­i­zens.

Sim­i­lar ben­e­fit would come if these ap­pli­ca­tions are avail­able in lo­cal lan­guages. Though work has started in this re­spect in In­dia, most apps still run pre­dom­i­nantly on English. While a large sec­tion of ur­ban pop­u­la­tion of In­dia is al­ready fa­mil­iar with English, just imag­ine the po­ten­tial if these ap­pli­ca­tions are avail­able in the lo­cal lan­guages. Just like in Dubai where these were avail­able in Ara­bic too.

While there are sev­eral other as­pects of in­fra­struc­ture boost through tech­nol­ogy that In­dian smart cities could learn from Dubai, pub­lic con­nec­tiv­ity could be­come the fo­cal start­ing point. Are the ad­min­is­tra­tors in In­dia lis­ten­ing to what their coun­ter­parts in UAE are do­ing?

As cus­tomer data mounts, so too does the re­spon­si­bil­ity of com­pa­nies to use it well. But amid the ab­stract com­plex­i­ties of dig­i­ti­za­tion, how do we keep our cus­tomers’ trust? Tech­nol­ogy can’t al­ways win it and laws can’t al­ways pro­tect it. Only re­spect­ing cus­tomers as more than the sum of their data will earn their con­fi­dence – and only that con­fi­dence can se­cure a bright fu­ture for the dig­i­tal age.

A lot is said about data. When amaz­ing po­ten­tial and se­ri­ous risk com­bine in one is­sue, it gets at­ten­tion. Noth­ing in­spires con­cern like the threat of change, and it isn’t long be­fore talk of good and evil be­gins.

But data is nei­ther good nor evil. It is merely a tool. Like a ham­mer, its help­ful po­ten­tial can be eas­ily mis- used. But what a mis­take it would have been to toss the ham­mer away af­ter a few sore thumbs. Data is a tool of equally revo­lu­tion­ary pro­por­tions, and we all to­day hold its fate in our hands.

Busi­ness holds per­haps the strong­est hand of all. It is we who col­lect and use data, and there­fore we who bear the most re­spon­si­bil­ity for shap­ing fu­ture-ori­ented, sus­tain­able pro­cesses. Over the pre­vi­ous decades, the econ­omy has re­formed in the im­age of dig­i­ti­za­tion. Com­pa­nies are more likely than cus­tomers to have a re­al­is­tic sense of the depths to which data per­me­ates. Users spend hours a day in­ter­act­ing with var­i­ous screens with­out hav­ing much con­cept of the mas­sive ex­change of data en­abling the ex­pe­ri­ence of con­nec­tiv­ity they have grown ac­cus­tomed to – and re­liant on. A few min­utes on a tablet sends hun­dreds of apps pro­cess­ing and ex­port- ing to who knows what ends. The re­sults and ef­fects of col­lec­tive data are not of­ten our con­cern.

Un­til they be­come it. As ma­jor leaks and hacks have shown, com­pa­nies are just as vul­ner­a­ble to the threat of data in­se­cu­rity as their cus­tomers. Yet com­pa­nies, from be­hind all those screens, un­der­stand data bet­ter than the pub­lic. We can see the added value data anal­y­sis re­turns to cus­tomers, and work to con­struct so­phis­ti­cated sys­tems that per­son­ally com­ple­ment them. But in the process, com­pa­nies risk for­get­ting that cus­tomers are more than the data they cre­ate. The pub­lic, al­ready wary, can feel for­got­ten – even used.

Al­go­rithms do not re­place re­la­tion­ships

How much can we rely on the pub­lic to make good busi­ness mod­els? Should we sim­ply ex­tract the in­for­ma­tion that we want with the self-as­sur­ance that we know what’s best? Too many com­pa­nies trust their data more than their cus­tomers. A ner­vous pub­lic, plagued with sto­ries of cor­po­rate abuse, will only pull fur­ther away from cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships, set­ting up a dig­i­tal age of mis­trust and iso­la­tion. Com­pa­nies must not aban­don cus­tomers to in­ter­pret the com­plex­ity of cy­ber trust them­selves. No side has all the answers to this great so­ci­etal shift, and we all share the vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Com­pa­nies have noth­ing to lose and ev­ery­thing to gain from trans­parency. No mat­ter the tool, the method re­mains the same: trust is the only way to se­cure cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships through dig­i­ti­za­tion and be­yond. Trans­parency tells cus­tomers the re­la­tion­ship is mu­tual. Both sides ben­e­fit from safe, strong data.

Nowa­days ev­ery­one has ac­ces­si­ble per­sonal pro­files. Data af­fects our lives even if only through the so­cial net­work news feed show­ing us only what it feels we want to see. When re­la­tion­ships don’t go be­yond data, we live in bub­bles with­out per­spec­tive. When mis­trust min­i­mizes data, we hin­der the ex­pe­ri­ence of plu­ral­ity nec­es­sary for a bal­anced life and proper in­te­gra­tion in so­ci­ety.

The deeper the trust, the higher the qual­ity of data. An open com­pany in­vites an open cus­tomer, and the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion hinges on this open­ness. Where com­pli­ance mat­ters to the law, trust mat­ters to the cus­tomer – when peo­ple feel se­cure deal­ing with a com­pany, they rely on it to do the right thing. Only a re­li­able re­la­tion­ship is sus­tain­able, and that’s one thing dig­i­ti­za­tion won’t change.


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