Issue 8: January 2014


By Sue Thomas, BT Scotland

By 2030, an estimated 5 billion people will live in cities, compared with 3.6 billion today, and with Scotland’s population predicted to grow by 10 per cent in the same time frame, city and regional leaders will face some tough infrastructure and growth challenges. This will of course impact on issues of urban quality such as housing, economy, culture, social and environmental conditions.

To thrive economically and drive growth and productivity you need to be able to attract new business and investment into your city and your region. However, we are already in a world where there’s ever-increasing pressure on the public sector with continued financial cutbacks, scarce resources, an ageing population and higher service expectations. You need to deliver more, but also need to deliver it for less. Sometimes it might feel like you’re being asked to achieve the impossible.

We know that economic growth does not always deliver better quality of life for citizens or the environment. So for a Smart City or community, smart growth is needed where city and regional leaders prioritise their best growth opportunities - whether this is in, for example, transport, water or energy management. At the same time the Smart City or community needs to be environmentally savvy in its approach to these developments.

In too many cases, current models of public services are not fit for the coming challenge of delivering economic growth, particularly given the scale of planned reductions in public spending.

Significant organisational efficiencies are necessary but will not be sufficient. Therefore, a radical approach to public service reform is needed over the next three to five years.  This will reduce the high levels of dependency and demand for a range of public services in the context of declining public spending, and support growth plans. It will achieve this by helping to connect people to opportunities, reduce unemployment and improve skills and workforce productivity.

…. for a Smart City or community, smart growth is needed where city and regional leaders prioritise their best growth opportunities - whether this is in, for example, transport, water or energy management.

To deliver this, Government and local public, private and third sector partners need to work more closely together to rapidly increase the pace and scale of change, and unblock barriers to more effective, integrated public services. We’re moving toward a revolution where the opportunities to harness the power of technology will lead us to a smarter world. Networked intelligence will allow us to monitor, manage and use available resources more efficiently than ever before.

Connectivity and smart devices have been around for a number of years, but only now, driven by the ever growing pressures, are the opportunities being recognised. These new opportunities will improve our world, not just on a global level, but on a local and personal level too.

BT is bringing fibre broadband to more than 1.4 million Scottish homes and businesses as part of its £2.5 billion investment programme.  This is due to be completed by the end of Spring 2014. Access to high-speed broadband is rapidly becoming a key and essential ingredient for economic growth and is also a major determining factor in where businesses decide to locate.

We know that economic growth does not always deliver better quality of life for citizens or the environment.

Fibre broadband opens up a whole raft of leading-edge software applications that will benefit businesses – allowing them to work more efficiently, enabling people to work when and where they want to, as well as expanding their business offerings and connecting with customers, not just locally but all over the world.

Across society technology is improving almost every aspect of our lives, in the way many of us manage our money online, shop, and connect with work, friends and family. At the heart of this, technology has been the enabler and transformer.  Experience in Milton Keynes provides a good example of this.

How BT is using innovation to help Milton Keynes secure sustainable economic growth

Milton Keynes is set to benefit from a £16m project to accelerate its ‘Smart City Programme’.  BT is the major IT partner collaborating with government agencies in order to use the latest technologies to resolve the constraints to growth for the city and to improve quality of life for its citizens.

The MK: SMART project will gather real-time information from a range of sources across the city and provide innovative analysis tools to enable much more efficient use of transport, water and energy infrastructures – helping to drive economic growth.

Central to the project will be the creation of a state-of-the-art ‘MK Data Hub’.  The Hub, using Cloud and Big Data Technology, will draw together information from a range of sources across the city. This will include energy, transport and water use data, satellite based weather and pollution data, social and economic datasets, and data crowd-sourced from social media or through specialised apps.

Working towards sustainable growth - The MK Data Hub will make it possible to implement radical new solutions for managing demand. With a forecasted growth potential of 64% for Milton Keynes by 2026, the data hub will go some way to realising this, in a sustainable manner.

Providing the foundations for local business expansion - as well as being used to develop solutions for better managing the city’s infrastructure - the data hub will also support business growth by creating opportunities for local SMEs to develop new products and services. A dedicated business incubation space will be located at the University of Bedfordshire’s campus in Milton Keynes which will help new businesses to innovate and compete in the digital economy. 

Using technology to deliver a positive impact on our environment - the project is expected to deliver up to 20% in water savings, 50% less traffic congestion, a 2.8% reduction in electricity consumption and 2% gas reduction. This project is a strong example of how communications technologies can be used to reduce the pressure on resources and cut carbon emissions.

Technology has the power to help transform communities for the better. It can help you do more with less, find new ways to connect public services to the people, and bring people closer to public services.

Sue Thomas,
BT Scotland

1. United Nations Population Fund -

By Sue Thomas, BT Scotland

Issue 8: January 2014

Issue 8: January 2014


Smart Cities: Smart Services: Smart Working Editorial

In focusing on 'Smart Cities' let's start with a few teaser questions (answers at the foot of this column)...


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