Better Citizen Engagement To Build Smarter Cities


This is one of the earliest article in LinkeIn on March 16, 2015 explaining how “CitiAct” was conceptualised, designed, developed and launched. Check the re-publish article below.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaakvaaaajda1mzlkogq5ltazytktndfkoc1ioddllwi1oti4yzblzdjjmqThere is a worldwide trend toward Smart Cities as shown by the following:

  • Half of the world population is living in cities in 2013
  • Half of the population of Asia will be living in cities by 2020
  • Half of the population of Africa will be living in cities by 2035
  • Population in cities is expected to grow from 3.6 Billion to 6.3 Billion by 2050.
  • Over 50% of urbanization involves cities of less that 500K people

Cities are meant to be liveable, productive and sustainable. I’m one of the city dwellers that have lived in the surrounding areas of Kuala Lumpur for more than 40 years. I have studied, lived and worked for all these years and have seen how city such as Kuala Lumpur became what it is today. Many people have either migrated or prefer working in the cities and somehow the pace of development is unable to cope with the demand of the citizens.

The citizens have been complaining with many things such as road congestion, conditions of roads, transport, environmental quality and many others. As much as the authorities tried to solve these problems, the citizens still felt that the respond still very slow. Maybe because they can’t be everywhere.

Using the personal smartphone as the crowdsourcing device , it will empower the citizens to identify the problems voluntarily in which the complains can be channel to the right authorities. One of the mobile app which I am very fascinated is Waze – the app have features that depends on users input to indicate if there is a traffic congestion, road hazards, accidents, road closure etc. Sadly though, it’s such as “waste” that no city councils could use the Waze big data to improve their cities. I hope Google who owns Waze will make the data open for cities around world to plan better roads.

With similar concept, smartphones (using camera and GPS) can have similar applications that empower the citizens to identify the city problems such as:

  • Road conditions such as potholes, blocked roads, dangerous corners etc
  • Traffic lights that are faulty or improper timing
  • Accidents or hazards on roads
  • Location of dirty rivers or people throwing rubbish to the river
  • Improper hawkers blocking roads
  • Cars that drive dangerously or using the emergency lanes to overtake
  • Bus drivers that drive recklessly
  • Inconsiderate parking
  • Dirty hawkers or restaurants
  • Garbage trucks that did not pick up properly or not doing their rounds
  • Blocked drains, fallen trees
  • High potential crime areas
  • ….and many others.

Smart city spans a wide variety of use cases, from traffic management to water distribution, to waste management, urban security and environmental monitoring. Its popularity is fueled by the fact that many Smart City solutions promise to alleviate real pains of people living in cities these days. IoT solutions in the area of Smart City will help to solve traffic congestion problems, reduce noise and pollution and help make cities safer.

Take photos of the “problems” and geotag them. I think those are some of the most frequent complains by the citizens. If you have more, please feel free to comment and add here. Hopefully the different authorities can take the action swiftly.

UPDATE (April 2, 2015)

I stumbled upon an initiative called #BetterPenang (Facebook Better Penang) that is quite similar to the above article. The initiatives seems to be working quite well and the relevant authorities (MSSP) are able to resolve the citizens complaints in a timely manner.

UPDATE (June 12, 2015)

We have successfully launched our first Beta RIOT IOT application called “SmartCitizen”. It’s based on crowdsensing method whereby the users will become city reporters to inform the Local Authorities areas for improvement.

Previous methods using Local Authorities (Local Councils) and Facebook might not be the most cost-effective way of communications. With SmartCitizen, it will become a better citizen engagement tool for the Government in reaching out to the public.

UPDATE (June 16, 2015)

We have renamed the “SmartCitizen” application to “CitiAct” and now it has become one the most popular crowdsourcing app for Smart City. You can download the iOS version or Android version. You can also follow the updates from CitiAct Facebook.

You can view the SmartCitizen Portal here.

UPDATE (Nov. 23, 2016)

As of today, CitiAct is made available to 112 Local Councils in 6 countries around the world.

About the Author

Dr. Mazlan Abbas is an IOT Evangelist, Thought Leader and CEO of REDtone IOT. You can reach him on LinkedIn at https://my.linkedin.com/in/mazlan/ or Twitter at http://twitter.com/mazlan_abbas . For further details, check out http://about.me/mazlan.abbas

Mazlan Abbas

About Mazlan Abbas

IOT Evangelist

This entry was posted in Internet of Things and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: