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How Industry 4.0 helps governments address the inclusion imperative

Two indigenous girls in school

The global COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that citizens depend on reliable, easy-to-access and inclusive public services from cities and governments.

Coming out of the crisis, cities and governments have new opportunities to apply Industry 4.0 technology thinking to accelerate the delivery of digitalized services that are inclusive, sustainable and truly citizen-centric City 4.0 services. Industry 4.0 is now not just for industries; its digitalization principles have boundaries that stretch much further.

Two areas that were most affected by the pandemic were education and healthcare, but the digital response was both incredible and ultimately successful.

In early 2020, Governments and public institutions everywhere scrambled to rethink their service delivery approach in the pandemic. More than a billion children worldwide had their educations disrupted, patients were cut off from medical doctors and psychotherapists, and routine civic functions such as courtroom trials and other civil services could not be performed in person.

As in countless other sectors, digitalization proved key to continuity. Classrooms went virtual, telehealth claims skyrocketed over 4000 percent in the US — even Court systems in Canada, Dubai and others took proceedings online.

While that rapid digitalization was essential, it also called into sharp focus the digital divide: online schooling was a fine option for the 95 percent of students in Switzerland, Norway and Austria who had computers to use for their work; it was less so for the 66 percent in Indonesia who didn’t. Within each country, there was a wide disparity of online learning access that was dependent on parent or community wealth to purchase technology. The go-forward strategy for governments and cities must be one where broadband access and suitable devices are available to give access to public service for all.

Building on benefits, closing the gaps

Education and healthcare are prime examples of what’s possible with digitalized public services — and where gaps still need to be filled. Some research shows that, with the right technology, students learn more quickly and retain between 25 and 60 percent more material when learning online compared to a traditional classroom. But it will take a lot of investment to bring those benefits to the one in three children worldwide who cannot access remote learning. With observers such as the World Economic Forum suggesting virtual classrooms will play a role in education well after the pandemic, the need for high-speed, high-capacity connectivity will only increase.

Within healthcare, telehealth is on a similar trajectory. In April 2020, outpatient telehealth visits and care in the U.S. were up 78 times from just a few months earlier, according to McKinsey. Even with physical distancing measures easing off, telehealth use is still 38 times higher than before the pandemic. Given that healthcare is expected to be a major cost for governments as the global population ages, the speed and efficiency of telehealth may make it a crucial part of the toolkit for years to come. Yet it’s exactly the older segment of the population that has less access to the necessary technology: in the U.S., one in four adults 65 and older have never used the internet, according to the Pew Research Center.

Seizing the opportunity

As governments seek to give — and get — maximum benefit from digitalized services and to deploy them inclusively, they would do well to learn from experience of private industry, which has been engaged in digital transformation for years and amassed deep knowledge of how to get the most from broadband investments, the cloud, software-based offerings, analytics and virtual/augmented reality.

Governments also have new opportunities to generate revenue, especially with the rollout of open 5G networks. A recent Deloitte report notes what we at Nokia have been saying for some time now: cities that participate in the creation of their own 5G infrastructures can provide the broadband coverage needed for inclusive, citizen-centric services and generate additional revenues at the same time.1

We’re already helping cities put this to the test. In Nicosia, Cyprus, Nokia is working with Cyta, the Cyprus Telecommunications service provider, to create a city management platform using Nokia’s Integrated Operations Centre (IOC) for smart city transformation. The platform provides a framework to integrate service development, delivery and management, allowing Nicosia to enhance services, improve sustainability and reduce environmental impacts. It will also allow private-sector partners of the city to deploy new intelligent digital applications that enable citywide innovation.

The governments of Espoo, Finland and Leuven, Belgium, are working with Nokia to deploy smart city services that will support increased urbanization and make them more resilient to climate change, whose impacts are expected to become increasingly severe. As in Nicosia, Espoo and Leuven will enable companies they work with to securely expose city data to provide new digital services that benefit citizens and visitors alike.

The inclusion imperative

The pandemic may not be over, but where it is subsiding governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A chance to rethink how governments can ensure comprehensive access to services now and in the future, and the revenue models they can build to support them. Increasing inclusion must be a strategic priority in these discussions. An inclusion framework can help governments ensure their public services are accessible, affordable, usable, available and relevant to citizens, with insights from real-world performance and usage service performance feeding back into the planning cycle for continuous improvement.

Through investments in key elements of digitalization such as broadband, IoT and 5G, cities and governments can close the digital divide and provide services that are more reliable, accessible and available to all of their citizens.

Discover more on this topic here.


1 Building the foundation for cities to thrive after COVID-19, Deloitte, 2020.

Suparno  Banerjee

About Suparno Banerjee

Suparno is the global thought leader for Nokia’s Public Sector and Smart City initiatives. With a 25-year record of leading strategic connectivity programs on the country scale, he has amassed a deep understanding of how cities and governments can use digitalization and Industry 4.0 technologies to build resilience, achieve their sustainability goals and deliver inclusive services to all citizens.

Visit our Public Sector and Smart City pages to see our vertical solutions and our new Industry 4.0 page to learn more about these exciting technologies!

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