I spent nearly the whole of last week in Dubai – speaking to business leaders from India about the development of Intelligent Communities. My address was based on a paper The Prospects for Places and Communities – IOD Global Convention April 2016 – a substantial reworking of an earlier paper from 2015. I also chaired a panel discussion with the MD of a risk management consultancy, the Head of HR for an oil & gas company, the MD of an education and teaching service and a Professor from Greenwich University UK. The theme concerned Excellence and Innovation in a Digitalised Economy and the context was the role of enterprise in the development of Smart Cities throughout India.
The common experience was that while many ‘Smart’ pilot projects had raised wider interest there was concern about the local leadership strength for more substantial development programmes. There is, of course, huge diversity of policy direction and expertise within the Indian National, State and Local Government levels because priorities and awareness levels differ widely. But this observation applies equally across the UK and other parts of Europe.
One of the downsides of being away from base for nearly a week is the email mountain that builds up – but that stack of emails also reinforced my view that technological enthusiasms are, certainly in the UK, getting in the way of local leadership clarity.
In amongst these references you can, if you search hard enough, find some pointers towards the sort of goals that communities might reasonably expect. However the overall theme is technological – the means – rather than discussion of the purpose of all this effort.
In addition to summarizing the principles that underpin the development of Intelligent Communities I spent much time discussing with business leaders where they saw the boundaries of their business interests. It is clear from a great many case studies that enterprise involvement in matters normally assumed to be in the public domain, and particularly the engagement with Universities and Colleges, plays a huge and often decisive role in local economic and societal development. That scope for Public/Private engagement is hugely under-developed in India as much as in the UK.
Also lurking in my inbox was an interesting paper ‘How to Measure the Economic Impact of Universities’. This methodological overview set out the complexity of the challenge but also usefully pointed to a range of measures that could be further developed.
There is a great deal of work needed in the UK to further define the principles for local economic and societal development and to build local leadership expertise. Needs vary, leadership contexts and infrastructure challenges are hugely diverse and there can be no simple model for nation-wide application. But taken together the underlying objectives can form the basis for a cohesive development structure.
The time has passed for yet more pilots and demonstrators of clever technologies. There is massive scope for setting out guidance and best practice mission indicators for communities of all sizes. It is now time to encourage local leaders to develop more ‘intelligent’ frameworks for future local economic and societal developments.