Enabling the connected smart city ecosystem

At TM Forum Live! (in Nice in May), Bala Mahendran, Chief Executive, Basildon Borough Council will share a case study on  ‘Enabling the connected smart city ecosystem’. Here, he introduces the approach the city of Basildon is taking. 

In the city of Basildon in the UK we have just been honored with a royal visit – always a special and uplifting occasion. And this time I was especially proud as I witnessed Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal visit the newly created community hub in our civic building. In this hub we now have council customer services staff working alongside the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau (a charitable organization), central government jobs and benefits staff, librarians and probation workers.

Between them, they are offering an improved service for local residents, who often have need to see more than one of these organizations at any one time. The staff are learning from each other too to help them do their jobs better. The physical space they occupy has also benefitted from their co-location – it is now a much brighter, busier and more productive space.


Why am I telling you this? Because it reminded me what an ecosystem is. It’s often defined as all of the living things in a given area, interacting with each other, and also with their non-living environments – and what we have enabled in our community hub is a successful ecosystem.

This is an example of an ecosystem that is based essentially on physical proximity – though there is plenty of technology in the systems used by the staff working there. It is a very human face of a smart city – one that works for its citizens.

Inclusive cities

Other examples in Basildon show how we are enabling smart solutions that we can apply to the neighborhoods in which our citizens live. For me a city can only be smart if it is inclusive – that is to say it works for everyone and does not only create wealth and opportunity for a minority. So we are focusing smart solutions on the challenges of minimizing some glaring inequalities in our locality.

For example, we are using predictive risk modeling to improve outcomes for children under five in our most deprived neighborhoods. Working with our partners at Essex County Council we have commissioned a data platform and risk stratification program to bring together data and analyze the various factors which have been linked to poor outcomes. We are pooling and analyzing information held by various public service partners. We are then using this analysis, together with insight gathered from real-life experiences through ethnographic research, to better target early interventions and to involve local people in improving outcomes in their area.

Tackling air pollution

In a project called Green Cube we are tackling urban air pollution and its impact on school attainment and health. We have commissioned analysis of air quality, medical, GP and school performance data of a neighborhood in Basildon next to one of our principal arterial roadways. Using this tool, we can pinpoint and devise appropriate programs such as pollution reduction measures, health schemes, extra support in schools, up-skilling of residents, employment projects and so on.

These are the sort of smart solutions with a human face we are keen to encourage in Basildon. And I am sure they too would get the royal seal of approval.


About The Author

Chief Executive, Basildon Borough Council

Bala Mahendran is Chief Executive of Basildon Council, an engineer by profession. Focusing on a leadership of hope during hugely challenging financial circumstances, Bala is implementing a programme of transformational change. Services are being redesigned, new partnerships with the community are being forged and commercial opportunities are being exploited. All with the clear purpose of creating opportunities and improving lives of the people who live in Basildon. Basildon has a strong economy with specialisms in engineering and advanced manufacturing and under Bala’s leadership the council is pursuing an agenda for inclusive economic growth that has seen innovative regional, national and international partnerships.

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