[Written with Enza Iannopollo, a Research Associate in Forrester’s London office]
During last month’s Forrester Forum in Paris, Enza spoke with a client who shared some thoughts about his business. Aware that technology is everyday more critical for business to be successful, his main concern as an enterprise architect was the shortage of skilled IT labor.
Many people can juggle multiple devices or can use various software and applications, but very few know how to write an application or how to publish digital content. For the client, recruiting valuable employees was a major concern. “The origin of the problem lies in the education system, where technology literacy is not present at all or, if it exists, ICT and science teachers are often poorly equipped,” he pointed out.
If it’s true that “company in distress makes sorrow less,” our client will be at least comforted by the idea that a growing number of business people experiences the same difficulty — lack of skilled labor is the No. 1 obstacle to implementing tech solutions. And maybe, he will be relieved to know that tech vendors, new companies, and creative partnerships are looking to fill this gap.
Orange Business Services has all the pieces to have a comprehensive smart cities services offering. But they aren’t telling that story, or maybe just not yet. Given the interest in smart cities in the market and the need for services, it is certainly time they did.
I just spent a few days in Paris at an analyst event in which OBS presented the state of its business and strategy going forward. The three main pillars of their 2011 achievements were growth of services revenue at 6.4%, sustaining their core networking business with 1.9% growth, and launch of a smart cities program. Given that top billing, I expected to hear more about the strategy. While there was mention of smart city activities throughout the event, details of an overall strategy were surprisingly missing. That absence was all the more marked as Orange named a new lead for the company’s Smart Cities strategic program back in October. And, frankly, I’ve been anxious to hear the story.
But more importantly, the story could be much more than what was presented. What did we hear? The major accomplishments highlighted were last year’s launch of m2o city — a joint venture between Orange and Veolia to provide remote environmental data and water meter reading services — and a relationship with a major car manufacturer to enable collection of data directly from cars. Few details of either were provided.
I had an interesting follow-up conversation last week with Dmitry Chikhachev of Runa Capital. I asked what he was seeing in smart cities and civic innovation among Russian startups in these areas. Dmitry’s response supported my own observations that governments need to focus on the basics.
What kinds of innovation are you seeing in the public sector in Russia?
Many processes in the public sector are still supported by paperwork. One example is visa applications. To obtain a visa you need an application, on paper. You need copies of supporting documents. In Singapore, paperwork has been eliminated. You upload everything. And, you get a barcode via email to be shown with your passport when entering the country. To do this requires process change within government, which in turn, requires data handling, integration, electronic signature, and personal data protection — a combination of relatively high-tech solutions.
Within Russia, this kind of change — the shift to paperless government — is happening at the regional government level in Russia. Tatarstan is the most advanced from this point of view. (But on a promising side note, the Minister of Informatics from Tatarstan just got promoted to the federal level.) Government interaction with Tatarstan is already paperless.
Who is providing the solutions to support a paperless government?