Eats, Shoots & Leaves – the search for meaning in the tech jungle

Although I’ve landed the wonderful job of Head of Public Sector Sales for Vodafone, unlike many of my colleagues I am not steeped in a background of technology sales. I did that weird thing of studying philosophy at university and my summer holiday reading was more Wolf Hall than Smart Cities for Dummies (although having seen it pop up on my LinkedIn I have now just ordered a copy of the latter).  

What this principally means is that I am regularly confused by the language I hear and the words people use to describe certain concepts. Let alone the concepts themselves. “Digital transformation”… “Innovation”“Internet of Things”“Fourth Industrial Revolution”“The Smarter State”… “Smart Cities” Smart Cows… what on earth do all these things mean?  

I then think to myself: maybe I’m just a bit of a thick-o. Perhaps all these things are completely run-of-the-mill concepts and I just need to get myself up to speed. I make no further comment on the first of these thoughts but on the latter it has become clear to me that more often than not the language of “Smart” has evolved ahead of the meaning. 

So I had a look about. It turns out that the timeline of the Smart City – according to Verdict anyway – began in Los Angeles in 1974. After an initial mention, it took a while to get going and has probably been being bashed around now for about 10 years or so. As so often in life, Wikipedia gives a good overview of the definitions… and a neat precis of the progress of various cities across the globe. 

So then I thought to myself… given the UK has such a rich history of industrial and technological innovation (and here I would argue the Victorians should take a bow… what amazing people… the gloriously named Sir Joseph Bazalgette – pronounced “Basil-Jet” – who built London’s sewer for 2 million people when the city only had 1 million people and it’s now being used today by 8 million people etc.)… the UK must be at the global forefront of the “Smart” revolution? 

Erm… well… and I hate to be a hater but… we ain’t. The IMD Smart City Index puts London as 20th – and the UK’s only city in the top 50. I can’t see much mention of us in Statista’s stats either. And this re-enforces my view from working with my customers – a large chunk of the 418 or so local authorities – that more needs to be done at scale to embrace the opportunities of all things smart.  

And so to the point. 3 points, actually: 

  1. WHY should local government embrace all things smart?  
  2. WHAT are the use cases and where are they already working? 
  3. HOW are you going to help me deliver it? 

And these are exactly the three questions that I am arming every one of my sales team to have answers for.  

I am not going to gift away my specific answers to these questions; however, my elevator pitch is something like this: 

I firmly believe that the internet of things in particular has the scope to hit the sweet spot for local authorities: saving money while delivering better, greener, public services.

I firmly believe the use cases are finally well developed and are manifold.

I firmly believe Vodafone are perfectly positioned to support each and every local authority to deliver. 

It is our job – as an industry – to make the case and to support our public sector colleagues by putting our energy into clearly and openly answering these key questions.  

Guest blog by Guy Matthews – Head of Public Sector, Vodafone UK 

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