Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

170 FEATURE “Instead of testing with expensive physical trials and then fixing the issue, we can run different ‘what if’ scenarios as simulations on the model, rapidly test solutions and make real-time adjustments before choosing the most convenient solution,” says Ondiviela. “This helps us to obtain massive savings in cost and time to implementation, while minimising disruptions to citizens. It represents an enormous advance in opportunities to improve the quality of urban life.” When combined with technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, digital twins can be used for applications beyond engineering, urban planning and healthcare. “We can incorporate new technologies coming from metaverse, like Web3, to explore, visualise and experience the data model,” says Ondiviela. “New methodologies to incorporate real-time data can be put in place to increase the realism and accuracy of the model. This is leading to the concept of the MetaCity/ Cityverse, which represents a revolution in the way of operating and offering public services in the city, in the social relations of its citizens and in their leisure activities.” Ondiviela cites Doha in Qatar, Seoul in South Korea, and Singapore as examples of cities already experimenting with metaverse technologies. “Like all human developments, however, the ability to generate new business models and new services for citizens will be the determinants of the speed with which the metaverse is consolidated in our lives,” he says. “Much remains to be done as it is still in its infancy and there are many alternatives and a range of possibilities to explore.” Ondiviela says the ability to make decisions on data is “pure gold” for city leaders. “They can show that decisions are made based on real data and facts, rather than other vague criteria, which increases citizens’ trust and perception of professionalism and efficiency in the city management,” he explains Securing citizens’ trust is vital when using their personal data to enhance public service delivery. “Modernising traditional services can be challenging due to concerns about data privacy, security, and the credibility of information,” says Goldberg. “Integrating legacy data into new systems can be complex and require data cleaning and transformation to ensure accuracy.” Ondiviela agrees. “Citizens must trust the city to manage their private and sensitive information,” he says. “This trust relationship is the basis for the provision of quality public services adapted to the peculiarities of citizens and anticipating their needs.” To build trust, cities must allow citizens to remain the exclusive owners of their digital identities. “The current situation where certain providers of information and internet services obtain all the citizens’ personal information by all means must cease,” says Ondiviela. “The new decentralised identity environments allow citizens to decide which part of their identity can be transferred to each public or private entity at all times. Obviously, this requires the use of the latest technologies.” With urban growth expected to continue over the next decade and beyond, Goldberg expects more cities to invest in smart city technologies to help them innovate citizen service delivery while overcoming financial, geopolitical, environmental and other challenges. “Economic downturns can strain public sector budgets and resources, leading to the need for more efficient operations,” he says. “Technology can help civic leaders do more with less by enabling automation, data-driven decision-making, and streamlining processes. For example, AI can add value by automating routine tasks, providing personalised services, and analysing large data sets for insights. However, organisations must consider ethics and ensure transparency and accountability in decision-making processes. “Microsoft offers various solutions for urban innovation, such as Azure IoT for smart city initiatives, Azure AI for data analysis and AI-driven services, and cloud-based platforms for collaboration and communication. Our partner ecosystem will also play a crucial role in delivering and customising these solutions to meet specific city needs.” “Technology can help civic leaders do more with less by enabling automation, datadriven decision-making, and streamlining processes” JEREMY M. GOLDBERG, MICROSOFT