Smart governance and citizen engagement discussed in Qatar

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Frans-Anton Vermast, international smart city ambassador from Amsterdam, emphasised transparency in data management

The mutually beneficial connection between well-functioning cities, financial stability, and the importance of engaging citizens amid rapidly advancing technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), was highlighted at a panel discussion on Thursday at Smart City Expo Doha 2023.
Daniel Daszklewicz, executive vice-president, Group Retail Digital Business at QNB, explained the interconnected nature of a well-functioning city, stating that investments in systems such as traffic control, data management, waste collection, and air pollution reduction contribute to the city’s financial stability.
Addressing the question of adapting to evolving technologies, he underlined AI’s significance in enhancing efficiency, particularly in the banking sector. “If the organism of the city is working properly and well as a home, it is also financially well. In the end, whatever investment we’re taking ... they are coming back as a good business because the entire system is integral,” Daszklewicz said during the discussion, themed 'Smart Cities, Smart Governance: Digitally Steering the Cities of Tomorrow'.
Regarding the difficulty of adjusting to swiftly evolving technologies, Abdulla Jassim A J al-Khenji, project manager, Logistics Strategy at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, stressed the need to identify obstacles facing investors.
He cited the potential positive impact of integrating technology into various sectors, citing the importance of data-driven approaches in improving efficiency without increasing the workforce.
About optimising government sectors, Daszklewicz highlighted the role of AI in enhancing financial services and stressed that efficiency, enabled by AI, is the key to a better-functioning financial system.
“We (at QNB) want to make sure that AI is providing this efficiency to the services that we have. For example, if the transaction in the payment in the railway system is done quickly enough and optimised by AI, then the entire system works better. Efficiency is the keyword for AI,” he added.
Citing the accessibility benefits of AI, Ott Velsberg, government chief data officer of Estonia, discussed ongoing efforts in his country to enhance accessibility through projects like sign language recognition and machine translation.
He reiterated the need for citizen involvement in decision-making processes, empowering individuals to shape how government services function. About citizen engagement in the era of new technologies like AI, Velsberg pointed out the tremendous opportunities technology presents. He said there was an overwhelming response to Estonia’s government mobile application testing, highlighting citizens’ eagerness to contribute to services that bring value.
“We had to put a stop because we had such a huge interest from citizens to test out a service that wasn’t fully functional. People want to contribute if they know that this will bring value. Having an open mindset, oftentimes it is about the mindset, not the technology,” he added.
Frans-Anton Vermast, international smart city ambassador from Amsterdam, emphasised transparency in data management, asserting that citizens own the data and urging governments to be open and transparent about data collection, usage, and results.
He advocated for public data, stressing the need for clarity within legal frameworks while encouraging governments to have experimenting periods for data-driven initiatives.
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