Smarter Qatar

Residents have been asked what they want from a smart city

George Galica.
George Galica.

An explosion of innovative new thinking and technology is revolutionising our approach to urban governance.

‘Smart cities’ promise to be more responsive to their citizens’ priorities, and even anticipate their future collective needs.
It goes without saying that this is great news for residents, businesses, and the environment. It is also a lucrative commercial opportunity, with the smart city market expected to almost double from $655.57bn in 2014 to $1,266.58bn by 2019.

So, from established financial powerhouses like London and Tokyo, to emerging centres like Doha and Rio de Janeiro, the most dynamic cities are all busy plotting their transition to a new era of technological governance.

In every case, the starting point must be a clear, consensual vision of how citizens want their smart city to work, and what they want it to look and feel like. What are their aspirations when it comes to factors like pollution, healthcare, energy and traffic?

Most sizeable urban centres are home to a multitude of constituencies with competing priorities. Decision-makers have accordingly gone about gathering information from them in a variety of ways.

In Doha, Vodafone Qatar has led the world’s first and only mass consultation through a concerted digital media campaign.
We believe that, with direct access to decision-makers and millions of citizens, major telecommunications firms are uniquely placed to initiate and facilitate new forms of civic dialogue.

In a region that has embraced social media with a passion, there is no limit to the information that can be harvested from it by smart city planners. From minor traffic delays to international relations, millions of Arabs are constantly posting, tweeting and photographing their civic needs and aspirations.

That is why we have launched ‘Design Your Qatar’ - an innovative mobile and online portal where citizens can express their views on the future of their city.

Backed by a comprehensive social media campaign, we actively engaged Qatar residents, asked them to dream big, and ultimately take a direct hand in planning one of the fastest-growing and most exciting places on the planet. The response has been overwhelming, with our specially designed, fully ‘gamified’ website, designyourqatar.qa, attracting hundreds of thousands of interactions.

What are we doing with all of this information? Whereas other cities are adapting existing infrastructure to accommodate smarter technology, Doha is building a smart city almost literally from the ground up.

Guided by the uniquely ambitious and forward-thinking Qatar National Vision 2030, the authorities are highly attuned and responsive to new ideas, and we are working with them to integrate the latest ‘machine to machine’ (M2M) technology into city planning.

M2M provides the nuts and bolts of any smart city - technology that can interact with other technology. Across 26 countries and 70 partner markets, Vodafone is the global leader in M2M, rolling out smart cars, energy meters, security and monitoring systems – in fact, if it has an ‘on’ button, we are probably already working on a way to plug it into a smart city.
With smart traffic signalling already in place and a major new retail district set to raise global standards for smart technology integration, Doha is on course to become a global showcase for some truly advanced thinking on urban planning.

About George Galica
George Galica is head of managed services for Vodafone Qatar.

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