OurMobilePlanet.com (research commissioned by Google) has Spain ranking among the highest countries in terms of smartphone penetration (earlier research suggested it might have been even higher on the list only two years ago). Cities can and should leverage the widespread of smartphones to create better platforms of communication for their citizens. For example let’s take a look at what a suburban village of Chicago is doing. The Village of Gurnee has partnered with Nextdoor, an app that specializes in offering social networks for neighbourhoods, to offer a free app aimed at improving the communication among its residents.
If we take the cue from Gurnee and expand on it, the potential that this lends to cities is amazing. Apps could play a key role at creating/enhancing a sense of community, think about simple things like letting your building neighbours know that you will have some repairs done. It can also be a new and effective way to communicate to citizens, for example by letting a particular block know that their power will be shut off for system maintenance. It can also become a central repository for citizens to communicate with their government, by allowing them to log incidents and such. Of course all of this would also provide a host of very valuable data that could be leveraged to better improve the quality of life for the people living in these cities.
If smartphone penetration in Spain is any indication of Barcelona’s reality, then we cannot let this opportunity go unused (lest we forget that Barcelona is also the host to the most important mobile congress in the world). There are plenty of cities already taking advantage of all the opportunities that technology brings. What should we be doing?