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Cities Enter a New Era: The Automation and Personalization of Citizen Services

February 7, 2024


Author: Vivianne Gravel, Founder and CEO, BCITI Solutions Inc. 

If you look back in time, cities have continuously evolved their approach to providing citizen services. We started off at the end of the 19th century where in-person services at city halls and local eateries were common. Then, during the mid-20th century, cities focused on industrialization, building transport networks and schools. And then, in the late 20th century, early internet and computer systems began to emerge, marking a remarkable transformation.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and cities are rewriting the script yet again. This time, the stage is set for a technological leap that will redefine urban life in ways previously unimagined.

The Evolution of City Services.pptx

The future of cities, especially over the next five years, will be marked by the automation of citizen services and the rise of personalization. This shift is about embracing technology and reimagining every aspect of urban life, with the ultimate goal of creating more livable, resilient, and inclusive cities.

Meeting the Digital Demands of 21st Century Citizens

Citizens have gone digital, and their expectations have forever changed. They are demanding digital services as seamless and personalized as what they experience with private organizations. Waiting in line at city halls is no longer acceptable, and the frustration associated with accessing public services is real. 

According to an Accenture study, 93% of citizens now expect digital services of the same caliber as private organizations. Waiting times are the primary irritants, with 67% of citizens citing it as a significant concern. Furthermore, 53% of respondents in 2022 expressed frustration with accessing public services.

Financial Deck - Solutions B-CITI Inc 2024.pptx

Today, citizens want instantaneous services, personalized information, recommendations tailored to their needs and interests, and assurance that their data is protected and used securely. On the city's side, there are challenges such as limited resources, financial constraints, pressure from citizens for top-notch digital services, and the growing impact of natural disasters and pandemics.

In this context, the digitalization and automation of citizen services are no longer "nice-to-haves" but absolute necessities. Self-service options significantly reduce the demand on city resources while providing citizens with the efficient, personalized, and secure experiences they now expect.


What actions must cities take to adapt to the digital revolution and meet the evolving needs of their citizens for innovative, secure, and efficient services?

As we embark on this journey of transformation, cities must embrace innovation, prioritize data security and privacy, and continue to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of their digital-savvy citizens. The automation and personalization era in citizen services is here to stay, and it promises to shape our urban environments into more vibrant, efficient, and citizen-centric communities. The integration of these technologies and services is not an option but a global imperative. 

The Evolution of City Services.pptx (2)
  1. IoT and Real-time Data Collection: Cities are becoming increasingly interconnected, with IoT devices collecting vast amounts of real-time data. This data fuels informed decision-making, making cities more responsive and adaptable to citizens' needs.
  2. Data-Driven Decision Making: With data at their fingertips, city officials are empowered to make more precise and effective decisions. These insights help optimize resource allocation, improve public services, and enhance overall urban planning.
  3. Digital Platforms & Mobile Apps: Cities are investing in digital platforms and mobile applications that serve as centralized hubs for citizens to access services, information, and interact with local authorities seamlessly.
  4. Smart Mobility Solutions: The integration of smart mobility solutions, including autonomous vehicles and advanced public transportation systems, is reshaping urban transportation and reducing congestion and pollution.
  5. Sustainable Urban Development: Cities are prioritizing sustainability, focusing on green infrastructure, renewable energy sources, and eco-friendly urban planning to combat climate change and enhance quality of life.
  6. Public Safety & Security Enhancements: Leveraging technology for enhanced public safety, including surveillance systems, emergency response networks, and predictive policing, is becoming standard practice.
  7. Healthcare & Education: Technology is revolutionizing healthcare delivery and education, making services more accessible, affordable, and responsive to the needs of citizens.
  8. Local Media / Local Economy: Local media outlets and businesses are leveraging digital platforms and data-driven insights to better serve their communities.


Key Qualities and Initiatives for Visionary City Administrators 

The vision we have for the best city administrators of the future emphasizes the importance of integrating city services into a single, accessible platform, demonstrating leadership with a clear vision, and engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including citizens, city employees, and other city players.

Let's break down the key qualities and initiatives such a city administrator would need to embody and undertake:

  1. Embracing Complexity and Technological Integration: The best administrators will recognize the intricate nature of modern cities and leverage technology to simplify and integrate services. This means creating a ‘unique'—a one-stop portal—accessible via web, mobile, and other platforms where citizens can access all city services. It's not just about digital integration but also about making these services intuitive and user-friendly.
  2. Leadership with a Clear Vision: Administrators will need to be visionary leaders, able to articulate a clear and compelling future for the city. They must align elected officials, city employees, and other stakeholders around this vision, ensuring everyone is working collaboratively towards common goals.
  3. Mobilizing Stakeholders: Successful city administrators will engage and mobilize a broad spectrum of city players. This includes not only city employees and elected officials but also businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and, crucially, the citizens themselves. Fostering a participatory approach ensures that initiatives have broad support and are enriched by diverse perspectives.
  4. Establishing Trust through Data-Driven Decision-Making: In an era where trust in public institutions can be fragile, the best administrators will use data ethically inspired by the GDPR in Europe, they will use technology to enhance transparency and accountability. They will use data to anticipate citizen needs and make more informed decisions. They will justify those decisions based on anonymous data to the public, thereby building trust.
  5. Federating Urban Services and Diversifying Revenue: An innovative aspect of B-CITI’s  vision is the idea of federating urban services and generating revenue from sources other than government funding. This could involve public-private partnerships, monetizing certain city services, or finding creative ways to generate value from city assets and data. This approach can provide a more sustainable financial model for city services and reduce dependency on traditional funding sources.

To actualize this vision, city administrators will need to be adept in change management, have a deep understanding of technology and data analytics, possess strong communication and consensus-building skills, and be unwaveringly committed to transparency and citizen engagement. It's a challenging role, but one that holds the promise of transforming city administration into a more efficient, responsive, and inclusive process.


Wrap Up 

Cities are entering a new era characterized by the automation of citizen services and the rapid advancement of technology. This evolution, from the past's in-person services to today's digital demands, underscores the need for cities to adapt. The future of urban life hinges on seamless integration, visionary leadership, and robust stakeholder engagement. City administrators must leverage technology, prioritize data security, and diversify revenue sources to create more livable, resilient, and inclusive communities.

By embracing these changes, cities can unlock the full potential of the digital revolution and shape a brighter future for all citizens.

Vivianne Gravel
Article written by Vivianne Gravel
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