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Safety by numbers

The big question for us all is can technology make our cities safer? 

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Safety, can technology help us to achieve it?
Safety, can technology help us to achieve it?

On a visit to Singapore last year, I got lost. I emerged from the super, shiny underground through the wrong exit and found myself in a giant shopping mall. My phone had died. It was mid evening, dark and busy. Devoid of any personal technology, and not knowing how to steer by the constellations, I navigated by hunch, trial and error. You know what? I had a ball. I sat down in a street bar and had an iced tea, watching the crowds go about their after-work business. I felt totally safe in a way I had never experienced in a city before, although the currency for this peace of mind is extreme monitoring and fines.

 

Its not surprising that Singapore ranks second in the EIU 2017 Safe Cities Index 2017, (safecities.economist.com/safe-cities-index-2017)

coming second to Tokyo. The report ranks 60 cities across 49 security indicators covering digital, health, infrastructure and personal. It’s an interesting read. In fact, I spent a good hour so or, playing ‘Guess what ranking such and such city is’ with my children. FYI: Karachi came last while San Francisco came in as safest US city ranked fifteenth. Europe’s safest city was Stockholm at number eight. Toronto made four, while Australia put up a good show with Melbourne ranked five and Sydney seven.

 

Safety like never before is something that is of concern to everyone. There’s a feeling that the enemy is within: a shape-shifting menace that lurks in cyberspace and hacks into our daily lives, or is a very physical threat striking at random as we go about our daily business.

 

One of our highlighted news stories this week is about the Smart City Tech Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, which has waived the cost to all public officials, community leaders and civic organisations. This summit aims to synthesise IoT smart city technology and public safety needs and discuss the challenges cities face to make their communities safer. The big question for us all is can technology make our cities safer?

 

The Boston Consulting Group has been grappling with this very issue and this year released an excellent report (www.bcg.com/publications/2017/defense-justice-border-digital-transformation-technology-collaboration-smart-safe-cities.aspx) on addressing security issues where collaboration plays an essential part.

 

The report points out that city protection involves a diverse group of stakeholders including all levels of government, to police and first responders, transport agencies, the military, private security services, businesses and citizens. However, to collaborate effectively and allocate resources to the right entities and in support of the right objectives, these stakeholders need to be guided by a unified strategic vision, but in discussions with public-sector leaders, researchers found that such a vision has rarely been defined for the security ecosystem.

 

The age-old problem about security and civil liberties is addressed too, with a suggestion that public debate and public opinion on key security topics such as objectives and levels of security, as well as the safeguards that protect civil liberties should be launched.

 

Referencing back to my ’lost in Singapore’ moment, how much civil liberty would I trade? Thinking about the Internet, social media and my daily, logged digital footprint, how much have I already lost without blinking an eye?

 

Melony Rocque

Executive editor

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