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What do a 17th-century poet and smart cities have in common?

What do a seventeenth-century English poet and smart cities have in common? The answer is they share a fundamental idea. Speaking at the recent Smart Cities InFocus event in Yinchuan, China, Karan Henrik Ponnudurai, Chief Innovation Officer, Axiata Digital, quoted John Donne’s famous line, “No man is an island” and observed that the notion has morphed into the mantra of the digital age: “No one can do it alone”.

He said, “Internally we are facing the challenge of how we build our technology – how do we rebuild our customer service processes – to integrate them with those of others? How do we create the ability to build linkages, not only with technology providers, but mobile phone operators and governments and consumers?”

Ponnudurai noted, “We’ve been rethinking our role and how we can morph into providing other services, specifically in the context of smart cities. This revolves around some of the attributes we’ve built over the last 20 years very successfully, building brands that people trust, customer touchpoints people interact with regularly. These can be reframed in the context of smart cities – there’s a very nice synergy operators can create with providers who are building smart cities.”

The journey that many cities around the world are embarking on in the quest to become smart, for the benefit of all stakeholders, has much in common with the evolution that communications service providers, and mobile network operators in particular, have undergone in the last two decades – and puts them in a strong position to play various roles in the ecosystem that enables smart cities.

Ponnudurai commented, “We’ve morphed from basic utility providers to customer-centric brands and this is a phenomenon that has been replicated in what consumers or citizens expect of their government or cities. I think what mobile operators have experienced over the last 20 years has a lot of relevance to what governments are going through to remake their services and become more consumer-centric.

“It’s exciting to see the coherence of problems and the thought processes converging on several key things, collaboration being one of them. And it’s not only bilateral collaboration but really multi-lateral collaborations that need to be put into place.”

See more interviews with senior smart city officials

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    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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