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Safe cities in the GCC: a three-sided story

Safe cities in the GCC: a three-sided story

Alaa ElShimy explains how safe cities are impacting people as well as the public and private sectors

It’s a good time to be alive. The digital revolution is upon us, technologies are becoming more accessible and affordable, and governments are going smart. A smart city is an urbanised area that utilises numerous smart initiatives to improve the livelihood of its citizens and visitors.

These initiatives focus on healthcare, education, water, energy, and perhaps most importantly, public safety. One of the most powerful aspects of improved connectivity is the ability to bring people together. This has brought a number of benefits to the field of public safety, from bringing citizens closer to the authorities to accident response times, vehicle tracking and wider city mapping.

The very goal of smart public safety is prediction and prevention of incidents. Globally, this area of smart investment is receiving more and more attention from governments. By 2050 it’s predicted that more than nine billion inhabitants will walk the earth, and over half of those will live in cities. Bringing together the smartest minds to create and deploy the most intelligent networks and technologies to protect those people is all-important.

Generally, there’s a number of challenges that cities face, and will face in the future. Terrorism, overpopulation, transport infrastructure, strained resources, both utility and personnel wise, are all major talking points on government agendas. But on a more macro level, it’s clear that each city has its own list of challenges, in an order of priority it deems fair. Some are unique, others are shared – regardless, local solutions are necessary.

We have delivered many safe cities around the world, working with partners to develop converged, open, one-stop safe city solutions that are video-enabled. These solutions currently serve more than 800 million people in 200 cities across Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific, and it is important that we always work closely with large, local ecosystems that include everyone from government entities, to app developers, to major banks, and more.

Empowering partners to support local governments and developers will help to better solve unique, relevant problems that cities face. Solving these problems will have a direct impact on multiple city stakeholders, but each in their own unique way.

Here are three separate areas that outline how each will be affected by a successful smart public safety initiative.

People – citizens and visitors

Citizens might be the obvious choice when wondering who will feel the impact of a smart public safety initiative most. But in actual fact, a well-designed and deployed safe city shouldn’t be obvious to those it serves. Visitors and residents should interact with smart solutions seamlessly, on a daily basis.

However, one major difference for them will be how they begin to play an active role in maintaining safety measures in their own cities. If local partners and governments can build relationships through social media and public forums, they will be better educated on how and when to share information relating to safety. Moreover, they will be advocates of the technologies and offer tangible feedback on systems deployed across the city.

The development of a strong and diverse ecosystem will allow governments and their authorities to have a better relationship with the public, and therefore create and provide better, tailored services.

Public – businesses and organisations operating in the public sector

The major opportunity for businesses and the public sector is becoming part of the ecosystem that facilitates smart city evolution. Developers, engineers, manufacturers and others stand to benefit from the burgeoning platform for innovation and creativity. IoT and cloud computing will nurture an innovative society led by public and private sector companies trying to find unique solutions for citizens. Public sector initiatives will rely on private sector input, as well as talent nurturing, training, and research.

There’s also the impact on private sector organisations as end-users. For example, the ability to run sporting events, retail chains and so on with added safety and control would be hugely beneficial in today’s environment, and in the future.

Private – government entities leading the way

Of course, this is where the difference is made – the vision and determination from governments around the world create safe, smart havens for their people.

Investment, interest, intelligence, and insights are all crucial for this to happen.

Firstly, financial allocations will change – the how and where of government spending will soon reflect the growing importance of ICT equipment, resources, and training needed to make this a reality. This will have a direct impact on crime and incident levels, the risk to individual property and of course culture surrounding safety perception. Nations in the Middle East will benefit hugely from this shift in perception.

Therefore, more and more people will be able to better live out and enjoy their daily lives, while building better, stronger relationships with their governments.

Although these safe cities are predominantly government-led initiatives, it will take a strong ecosystem of partners and stakeholders to make it a reality. We are proudly helping the facilitation of the ecosystem and aiding partners as they drive digital transformation across the board, helping to improve the livelihood of people like you and I.

Alaa ElShimy is managing director and vice president of enterprise business at Huawei Middle East

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