Brighton Digital Festival: We can redesign the future of our city

The way we work, shop, even the way we find a partner, is mediated by technology.

Friday, 18th September 2015, 3:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:39 pm

By Jenni Lloyd

Our lives are mediated by technology - the way we work, the way we shop, the way we play, even the way we find a partner. And as devices become smaller and more mobile they've become more intimately embedded in our behaviour and identities.

The effects are nowhere more apparent than in our workplaces, which have been transformed by the use of email, cloud computing, enterprise social networks, and mobile devices. People can communicate at greater speed and ideas can be tested, validated, and implemented at a fraction of the time and cost of before.

New, agile competitors can disrupt incumbents out of the blue, customers can publicly complain to a CEO and intelligence analysts can publish national secrets in the blink of an eye.

Technology is fundamentally changing our world - forcing organisations to reconsider their power structures, hierarchies, and relationships with customers and employees alike.

Those that don't adapt fast enough are dying , as Kodak was displaced by Apple, Blockbuster by Netflix, or seeing their business models disrupted by platforms like Uber and AirBnB.

Technology is also changing the fabric of our urban landscapes - they bristle with connected CCTV cameras and sensors are being added that collect data on air pollution, traffic congestion, and available parking spaces.

The idea of the "Smart City" is that all these sensors, along with big data, can help cities address the challenges they face. But in practice the focus has been more on hardware than people - and what we need in order to live happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives.

I believe there's a massive opportunity for Brighton and Hove to learn from the way that organisations are transforming in response to digital disruption and co-opt the Smart City agenda, and financing, to focus on people.

We know that with a decreasing council budget comes a need to reimagine how essential local services will be delivered. This could lead to a doom-laden scenario in which less is provided, at lower quality, for fewer people.

Imagine instead that we initiate a collaborative, participative civic innovation lab that generates better solutions than we've ever previously imagined.

To do so we need to connect all the different parts of the city, all the different communities with their vastly different needs and work together to find new ways of servicing those needs.

I've decided that this is interesting and important enough to try. As a first step I'm hosting an event on November 25. Connecting Brighton is a free, participative one-day conversation designed to explore ideas of what the future for Brighton could be and how we might get there.

The event will be an embarkation point - testing the appetite within Brighton to be part of designing the future of our city. If successful, it will be the start of a connected community motivated and enabled to make change happen.

Join in and sign up here: bit.ly/connectingbrighton

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Jenni Lloyd is a non-exec director of Wired Sussex, trustee of the Royal Pavilion and curator of the annual Meaning Conference. She is the founder of PurposeLab.

PurposeLab. is an experiment, as are all its actions. At its heart is the creation of prototypes that allow us to explore the future by doing.