In this episode of ‘In Conversation With,’ Nina Simosko (CEO at NTT i3) joins Sweden-based futurist Aric Dromi. The topic: the changing relationship between technology companies, city government, and citizens

 

(“In Conversation With” is a video series where NTT i3 executives engage in conversation with some of our most visionary partners at NTT’s Operating Companies and global enterprise customers, futurists, and leading Silicon Valley technologists, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The explorations may be around current and near future developments in IoT, big data analytics, machine learning, AI, network virtualization, and security. At times, we also investigate the human impact of technology and the role our values and culture have on how we decide to use what we are inventing.)

 

Nina:

How do tech companies need to operate differently than maybe they did 5 years ago?  Large tech companies need to be thinking ahead on behalf of cities.  They need to be thinking about and bringing solutions and ideas to the cities.  Google Sidewalk is already starting that kind of progression.  More technology companies need to get on board.

 

Aric:

I fully agree.  Think back to some of the early work of corporate scenarists at companies like Shell back in the 1970s. Their board of directors was smart to understand the valley of planning for the future before OPEC was established. They hired a bunch of scenario-thinkers to come up with stories about what could happen. This is what technology companies need to do, to draw up the scenarios.  Then they can go to the cities with the scenarios and say: “Guys we cannot guarantee that this is what is going to happen, but this is one potential future that could happen.  Let’s work toward that together.”

That’s what companies need to start doing right now.

 

Nina:

I agree 100%.  Companies need to be part of the future planning in partnership with cities not only around the functionality and implementation, but in the way it exists in the city landscape. I think NTT is poised to contribute, especially on the networking side of things.

 

Aric:

I believe that technology should be transparent; it should be invisible.  Technology should be a trigger to remove friction rather than to enslave us to a screen. It will be the same with privacy and security.

I’ll go back to the capability of NTT to hide the technology, and move the conversation from ‘privacy’ to ‘value.’  If we create a value-based interaction model, then we create a flourishing model for the cities, the citizens, for the companies that cooperate in this entire ecology.

 

Nina:

In the past, I think software and high tech companies have talked about the value of their network – the pluses, minuses, and benefits. Now we want it to be seamless, integrated, nearly invisible.  What does that mean for tech companies?

 

Aric:

I think they must be willing to change their working assumptions from the ground up.  They must adopt new ways of looking at their product or service portfolio.

It’s very easy to come to a CIO in a company and sell a piece of software.  It’s very hard to come to a city like NY and essentially sell that to 25 million people. That requires a whole new way of looking at and doing things.

I’m really not worried about technology.  I’m not – not even a bit.  I do worry about the management of technology, replacing existing infrastructure and managing it. It’s very easy to take something like a car and retrofit it with technology to do one specific task.  But now what we are really talking about is retrofitting humanity.

 

Nina:

How are people going to embrace or reject this concept of changing humanity, which really happens very slowly?   The pace of tech and the infrastructure plays that we are going to need to occur to support this are moving so much faster than a human would normally be used to or comfortable with.  Your point there – it’s going to be an interesting cultural shift, especially for the big cities.

 

Aric

Oh, It will be and I would not wait for governments to put legislation forward that are technology based.  I would again advise tech companies to work closely with city mayors to help them understand the coming change.  And each city is different.  You cannot sell the same solution to 5 different cities.  You have to tailor the fit for each city. You also have to embrace the reciprocal relationship one city has to have with others to create an ecology of interactions.

 

Nina

I was thinking about the fact that the way cities are going to have to approach this kind of new movement of changing and upgrading their infrastructure is almost the same way that we need to think about software development here at NTT i3.  In evolving to the smart cities of the future, everyone has to embrace a completely different kind of thinking and different speed of working. We need to hone in on the smaller circles and segments of what needs to be done quickly versus tackling something unrealistic that will take forever.

 

Aric

Well I think you’re absolutely right. A city needs to find one specific friction in one specific neighborhood or community, and then work with that community to solve that and then scale to the next neighborhood. You cannot take the next 50 years to create a solution that will be acceptable to the entire city. You need to take it one step at a time.

 

Nina

The way you are describing this new process or cities evolving makes me think of the best kind of software and business development – small steps and learning along the way versus one massive bet. It’s fascinating. There are so many human, cultural and technological implications to this whole topic. Aric, Thank you so much.

 

Aric

My pleasure Nina. Always.

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