Transforming Birmingham City with Smart Applications

Transforming Birmingham City with Smart Applications

Luis Hernandez-Munoz (Birmingham City University, Department of Computing Engineering and the Built Environment, Birmingham, United Kingdom), Gerald Feldman (Birmingham City University, Centre for Enterprise Systems, Birmingham, United Kingdom), Vahid Javidroozi (Birmingham City University, Birmingham, United Kingdom), Annette C. King (Birmingham City Council, Birmingham, United Kingdom) and Raj Mack (Birmingham City Council, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCSSA.2016070102
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Since the amount of people living in cities is expected to increase to 70% by 2050, cities will face many social and urbanisation challenges, and they will need to operate with reduced budgets and limited number of staff. The productivity of computers offers means to address city challenges and do more with less. In this paper, two Smart City projects carried out in Birmingham UK are presented. Firstly, in the Innovation Engine project, conceptual graphs were used to translate innovation experts' ideas into the specification of an open innovation model that may address the needs of large organisations with the capabilities of SMEs and citizens. Secondly, we present results of the pilot evaluation of the Digital Log Book, a smart web portal that enables citizens to access a whole range of public and private services including social housing, universal job match and jobseeker's allowance benefits. We can conclude that smart applications can be very useful to produce better public services and to support cities in the co-creation of new tools that empower citizens and organisations.
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Currently more than half of the world’s population lives in Cities (Nam & Pardo, 2011a; Chourabi et al., 2012) and this figure is expected to increase to 70% in 2050 (World Health Organization, 2016). Therefore, Cities are required to manage their present, to plan and create their future and to do more with less. This implies Cities need to provide access to information, address citizen concerns and decision-making processes efficiently, and work in collaboration with citizens, large organisations (LO) and small to medium enterprises (SME) to improve the co-creation and delivery of public services (Harrison & Donnelly, 2011).

The Smart City concept (SC) offers an opportunity to support those activities (Nam & Pardo, 2011b). A comprehensive definition of SC is the one that combines, people, technology, City systems, City management and policy (Gil-Garcia et al., 2015). Thus, in this paper, we consider a SC as the integration of those five components to enhance service delivery that solve citizen's challenges and offer sustainable and liveable environments. This ideology is grounded on the vision implemented in Cities such as Barcelona, that align technology, human capital and institutions' activities to provide high-quality services, and to promote innovation, collaboration and knowledge exchange among citizens and businesses. In turn fostering people's well-being, City efficiency and businesses growth (Bakıcı et al., 2013).

As one of the major Cities in the UK, Birmingham faces challenges of urbanisation such as socio-economic (digital inclusion and skills), health and well-being, mobility, environmental (e.g., low carbon emission) and access to data (Digital Birmingham, 2014). Currently, the Birmingham City Council (BCC) works to improve the delivery of public services to achieve the SC vision.

As part of the initiative to convert Birmingham into a SC and in line with the subject domain of this International Journal, this paper aims to provide two Birmingham SC examples that show how productivity across the public sector could be increased through the use of conceptual structures and smart applications, respectively. Namely, the Innovation Engine Project (related to conceptual graphs) and the Digital Log Book (related to smart applications). The Innovation Engine project represents an example of how an open innovation model can be created from eliciting innovation experts knowledge, through conceptual graphs, to design a technology platform that addresses the challenges of Large Organisations (LO) such as City Councils, with the capabilities of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and citizens’ ideas. Open innovation models foster the co-creation of products, services or technologies using internal and external stakeholder's ideas and different paths of delivery and commercialisation (Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke & West, 2006). Open innovation reduces research and development (R&D) costs, promotes customer-centred design and offers opportunities for better synergism among organisations (Marais & Schutte, 2009). And the Digital Log Book (DLB), an online portal that provides a smart application with tools that support Birmingham’s citizens on, for example, managing social housing services, managing universal job matching and jobseeker’s allowance benefits, and supporting efficient decision-making on administering budgets and making payments.

The following section provides a literature review of SC applications. Section 3 presents the design of an open innovation model using conceptual graphs for the Innovation Engine project and section 4 presents results of the potential of the Digital Log Book as an smart application. Finally, Section 5 presents the conclusions of this paper.

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