Date Published: July 26, 2017, 9:22 p.m.
bout Orange and Orange Labs – Orange is a French telecommunications company with 250 million customers worldwide in 2016. The group is either leader or the second operator in 75% of European countries and in 80% of African and Middle East countries where it operates. Orange Labs is the research and development division of the group focusing on SMART cities, mobile payments, content aggregation, mobile connections, services and applications, and SMART grids. Orange Labs network has more than 5000 employees in 18 centres.
Among others, local governments can use SMART technology to reduce the level of informality (and increase taxpayers’ base) and for the analysis of data (Big Data).
Reducing informality and tax evasion through SMART technologies – In some countries, and particularly in Africa, informal activities can represent between one quarter and one third of GDP and contribute up to over 60% of employment. This constitutes a significant shortfall in tax revenue for local governments. To make the 'formal' attractive and thus reduce the informal, local governments can use technologies to:
Data analysis for an optimal decision making – Local governments in partnership with telecom operators can use the massive data from mobile phones and / or deploy connected objects to generate data that allow optimizations. In this sense, in 2012, Orange organized the competition "Data 4 Development.". During challenges organized in Senegal and Ivory Coast researchers identified that Big Data can complement or facilitate heavy censuses, surveys or polls to measure indicators (e.g. of poverty, illiteracy, urban mobility, energy access, crisis management, floods, etc.). The analysis of these data allows public authorities to make informed and appropriate decisions. For example, in the field of urban mobility, the collection of data from mobile phones allows public authorities to carry out investigations of origin and destination, to identify areas of high density, to know where to act to better regulate the flow traffic, etc. Big Data can also establish probabilities of the percentage of illiterate population and the location of this population (e.g. based on the number of SMS sent) and better adjust communications campaign. The communication channel and the message can be customized according to the characteristics of the target populations. A research "OPAL" for Open Algorithm, is currently being developed with the French Development Agency to find ways national statistical institutes and local governments could use such indicators.
When it comes to SMART projects, public sector bodies are often cautious and have strong financial constraints. The implementation of public-private partnerships to test solutions that mobilize new products or services based on digital technologies to increase tax revenues or reducing expenses may be interesting. Especially before scaling up projects, thus allowing to proceed by demonstration effect in order to reduce risks and provide evidence-based advocacy. Telecom operators are the main actors with access to bulk data and innovation in business model could help local governments reduce investment costs. A new economic model based on Big Data context is the “Outcome economy” where companies do not sell services or products, but results directly quantifiable. In Los Angeles, the start-up "Streetline" partnered with the municipality to implement over 7000 sensors on urban roads allowing to know, in real time, parking availability. Los Angeles observed an increase of 2% in revenue generated by parking fees despite a decline in parking costs.
The illiteracy rate and Internet access inequalities are still high, especially in the cities of developing countries. Consequently, local governments should provide adapted services to the entire population, which means there should be alternatives to the solutions based on new technologies, and cities should also implement initiatives to reduce the digital divide and to educate people in their use. For example, in the case of tax payment projects via mobile phone, it is important that messages are understood by everyone (replace SMS by voice mail messages or interfaces with intuitive icons). From this perspective, the fact of having informed and updated databases on the profile of taxpayers in order to ensure that tailored messages are sent and conduct appropriate targeting policies is key.
The legislation does not always give autonomy to local governments to raise their taxes. It is therefore useful to plan extensive phases of negotiation with all stakeholders and to identify issues at stake for each actor involved (trade unions, local government, private sector, involved ministries, etc.). It may also be useful to start with a pilot phase, completed by a detailed impact assessment. This would serve to model and demonstrate the effectiveness of the project and defend it to citizens and decision-makers from central governments and guarantee a return on investment.
When implementing SMART projects, local governments should pay attention to the following elements: