Rapid urbanization, strained infrastructure, enormous amounts of data are placing new demands — and creating enormous opportunities — for cities and their resources. Public leaders must find new ways to engage with citizens on critical issues and services.
Business and public sector leaders gathered at the smarter cities forum India to discuss how to tackle the challenges and opportunities that cities in India face today, such as how they can better cope with infrastructure demands as the population continues to grow at an exponential rate.
The town hall meeting where citizens voiced their opinions on city affairs is more often happening online in an unorganized fashion rather than in person. If cities can understand the wealth of online content and public commentary –positive or negative — on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, it will give them new opportunities to engage with its citizens in real time and more quickly pinpoint and prioritize areas that are top of mind.
Now, cities will have a way to better measure and understand public opinions on key city issues and services, such as public transportation or education, using advanced analytics. By understanding the public sentiments of those living and working in a city, public sector leaders can create a new virtual town hall that can foster faster, more informed decisions that will in turn lead to improved services for citizens and more judicious uses of valuable resources.
Let’s take India and its three largest cities as an example. A more nuanced understanding of public sentiment could give a city additional insight into key areas to focus its attentions and resources, perhaps increasing public transit options during specific weather events in one city or implementing Bus Rapid Transit to attract certain industries in another.
So, the latest IBM Social Sentiment Index reveals what citizens in Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi feel is impacting congestion most in their city. The Index showed some interesting insight, particularly when comparing the cities to each other, for example:
· The top three factors citizens talked about most in impacting congestion were diverse. Delhites chattered about public transportation, weather and the stress of commuting, while Bangaloreans show more concern for their overall driving experience, construction and parking issues, and Mumbaikars talked about private transportation, accidents and pollution more often.
· Despite recent infrastructure improvements, less pollution and a solid public transit system, Delhites are experiencing a far higher amount of stress (50%) than in Mumbai (29%) or Bangalore (34%). Most likely, this can be explained by an uptick in rallies and weather events this year, as well as the recent power outage.
· Surprisingly, sentiment on the topic of construction was relatively positive in Bangalore and Delhi and positive and negative sentiment on infrastructure was relatively even. These may suggest that the transportation infrastructure improvements being made over the last two years in each city are beginning to positively impact citizens.
Once cities gauge the social media sentiment and apply analytics to it, it is easier to understand public opinions, and city officials can gain additional insights in order to draw logical conclusions about where they should focus their attentions and resources such as:
· Since Dehlite’s indicate that public transportation is the preferred mode of transportation, city officials could use this insight to study which areas have high ridership and less road traffic and then implement similar actions in highly congested areas.
· In Mumbai, negative sentiment around traffic and weather at the peak of monsoon season (August) generated 5.5 times more chatter than in November. If the city could measure the fluctuation of public sentiment on these potential causes over time combined with specific weather data like rainfall or temperature, it might be able to better prepare to divert traffic during monsoon season or determine areas where a public safety campaign is needed.
You can imagine how cities might then begin to surface best practices that they can apply to other zones of a city or even begin to share across regions. Each citizen has a unique voice and opinion about a critical issue or how to improve city services.