We read or hear it every day: the old political recipes no longer work for today's divided society. So how do we deliver a message of connection? How do we develop a long-term vision that reaches beyond the next elections? In the second part of ‘Smart Society’, we try to identify some relevant trends and technologies, so that 'connection' does not become a hollow concept.

What are we seeing? More division, and more radical. Today's critical citizen is outspoken, and the (social) media reinforce these divisions, be they factual or fictional. One thing is clear: the political waters are too deep for solutions across party lines. Therefore, we will look increasingly to the local authorities, which have the strongest connection with the citizen. This will be the support base to make important choices, to reach more people and to build society effectively.

Living Tomorrow TT 2
Living Tomorrow - trends for a smart society

There are different trends & technologies that are relevant within the context of a Smart Society to meet today's societal challenges. Because a Smart Society is more than pure innovation in a strict technological sense. It’s about using trends & technologies to build bridges, to enhance communication and to unite in spite of division. Let's zoom in on 3 themes using a practical example: living, people and environment.

  • Living
    An excellent example of a trend that effectively seeks to connect with society is the trend of the mobile nursing unit. This is a response to the shortcomings of the current policy, which increasingly relies on one's own network via informal care and home care. To be entitled to a place in the residential care, one needs to scores high on the care scale. As a result, these care homes are becoming mere end-of-life homes.
  • People
    Digital inequality is another growing trend in recent years and is often linked to income and education. Initiatives such as CoderDojo aim to support digital inclusion from an early age. CoderDojo is a global volunteer-led community of free programming workshops for young people between 7 and 17.
  • Environment
    Global warming and the pressure on public space makes people creative. Here we see initiatives like the Cromvlietplein in The Hague that try to give the public space back to the neighbourhood. Conceived and built by and for residents and entrepreneurs, Cromvlietplein becomes a neighbourhood park, where residents can relax and meet, and where schools and associations can organise activities. The extra greenery will make the area cooler on summer days and ensure that the rainwater is better collected and drained away. This way, this part of the city will be better prepared for climate change.

What can we conclude from these few examples?

Today, enquiries among various stakeholders such as supra-local government and knowledge institutions, give us negative or wait-and-see feedback. Policymakers are often hesitant and react via their own existing experiences and recipes... and therefore often cannot see the possibilities and feasibility of these new trends and concepts in practice. Keeping an open mind is an essential part of being able to embrace a new trend or concept.

Belgium and more specifically Flanders, has a specific context when it comes to the trends, technologies, changes and challenges outlined above. The 3rd part of this article, "Smart Society", will map this specific context before we proceed to our (future) vision.

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