In many places around the world, we urbanites already see the ‘city of the future’ unveiling right before our eyes a bit more every day. There are many integrated parts to a ‘Smart City’ enabling ourselves and the lives of ‘Others’ to be better connected to our surroundings. However, technology is only a part of the ‘Smart City’, and it allows us to take a look at local problems from a global perspective as we hypershift our vision and take a new look at modern problems through new lenses. How we can further use all this connectivity to improve our own well-being and the well-being of those less fortunate than ourselves?
I recently took part in a round table discussion called, ‘Participative city, e-democracy, citizen expression‘, as part of ‘Live in a Living City’ in Paris for the international conference on the city of the future. Author Edward T. McMahon once said of cities, “Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.”
A growing challenge facing cities in Asia and Latin America is a disease called Dengue. Dengue is a very painful and sometimes deadly disease which affects over 40% of the global population. Countries in South East Asia are hit particularly hard by this vector-borne disease, and with rising infection rates in India, where I am traveling at the moment.
To face these challenges individuals and organizations are exploring how new technologies can help find new and smart solutions. Break Dengue is an organization I helped co-found which is connecting people across the world, in order to work together towards a common goal, to break dengue. At the moment Break Dengue is raising awareness for this neglected disease during the World Cup with its ‘Red Card Dengue’ campaign, but back in December of 2013, Break Dengue turned to its online community of over 250, 000 Facebook followers (link to group) for global solutions to a local problem or ‘Glocal’ solutions. I announced the “Break Dengue India Prize” during my TEDxGateway talk in Mumbai last December of 2013, subsequently, Break Dengue launched its global contest on social media to give away $10,000 to implement a solution to dengue in some of the most affected cities of India.
After months of online promotion by the team and after reviewing the multiple applicants and ideas a winner was chosen by our esteemed panel of judges. The winner, X-Dengue proposed to adapt their digital solution – which connects the population in Singapore to a warning network using technology almost everyone already had, a mobile phone – in order to implement it in India. A ‘Glocal’ solution had been found. X-Dengue, an organization out of Singapore, used its own hyperthinking to incorporate basic, widespread technology that enables locals to take action against dengue infection rates in their own communities by implementing dengue prevention measures and surveillance.
By identifying dengue clusters and reporting the updates to the urban population in real-time, X-Dengue enables measures to be taken in advance in order to control the spreading of the disease and its vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The technology is not groundbreaking, nor is it new, but it is a successful hypershift in perception as to how we can use existing technology to further our own well-being. Many are betting on ‘smart’ cities to enable for a healthier global population. In fact, the Indian government recently proposed an allocation of Rs 7,060 crore this year to develop 100 ‘smart cities’ in the country. With ‘Smart Cities’ popping up all around us, one has to wonder if it will be the technology integrated into the ‘Smart City’ that improves our well-being or if it will be the smart people looking at these advances through new lenses and applying them to local problems. It’s not just the technology that will make our cities a better place to live, it’s what we do with it both locally and ‘Glocally’.