Talking 5 with Local Public Services Member Freshwave
Each month, techUK’s Associate Director for Local Public Services Georgina Maratheftis interviews a member active in the local government space about their vision for the future of local public services and where digital can make a real difference to people and society. This month we talk to Andres Cruz, Senior Account Manager for Mobile Network Operators, Freshwave about the true value of connectivity for local public services and citizen-centric smart cities.
Welcome Andres. Firstly, tell me more about you, your career and how you got to this position today?
Thank you for your invitation. I’m an electronic engineer with a master’s degree in marketing. I have over 15 years’ experience working in the telecom industry across South America, North America and Europe. I’ve mainly worked with start-ups and SMEs, helping them to develop the commercial strategy for new products and technologies and leading their expansion to new markets.
I’m completely passionate about technology and a true believer that technology, in the right hands, has the power to create a better world for us and the generations to follow. So, when I joined iWireless Solutions back in 2015, I met people who shared the same passion and that made a difference in my career. In 2018 the company was acquired by what is now DigitalBridge along with four other companies to form Freshwave. I’m currently the Senior Account Manager for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), working in collaboration with all UK MNOS as well as local authorities to provide best-in-class wireless connectivity nationwide.
What is the real prize for local government when it comes to digital?
Connectivity played an important role through the pandemic, allowing us to carry on with our work despite not being able to leave home for several months. And this is precisely where the main prize is when it comes to digital, in the endless possibilities that connectivity unlocks when people can have digital access to other people, public services, education, entertainment, job opportunities, training and health services.
Local governments have started to realise that the true value of connectivity is far beyond the potential income that they could generate by granting access to public assets. Benefits range from boosting economic growth, to ensuring digital inclusion.
At a national level, world-class digital connectivity has the potential to help businesses to be more productive, reach new markets globally, and reduce their operating costs. It also reduces the barriers for new businesses to be established in the UK, positively impacting the jobs offering in the UK.
At a local level, local authorities can also generate short-term and long-term savings by the implementation of digital services. This can in turn attract long-term investment from the private sector and improve a community’s appeal. Overall, nobody wants to work or live where they don’t have connectivity.
What is your vision for the future of smart places and cities?
In my humble opinion a smart city is still more a concept than a reality. We have seen initiatives from different verticals, but those initiatives are developed in isolation. I would say that a true smart city is a city in which its physical and digital infrastructure are interconnected, where data is open and shared between multiple systems in a safe way to provide a customised service to all citizens, and where services are accessible to all.
If citizens are put at the centre of the strategy for smart cities, one could argue that the quality of life will be improved considerably compared with today. I visualise a world where the working hours will be reduced by half, the working week will be three or four days, the price of goods and food will be more affordable, and all of this will give us more time to share with our loved ones and to enjoy ourselves. I imagine that illnesses could be diagnosed at an early stage; road accidents as a product of human error will considerably decrease, and kids will be able to access the best education regardless of where they live.
However, the opposite effect can also occur and technology can also have the power to isolate people. Thus, the private sector and the government need to work together to make sure people are at the centre of the strategy.
Georgina is techUK’s Associate Director for Local Public Services
Georgina works with suppliers that are active or looking to break into the market as well as with local public services to create the conditions for meaningful transformation. techUK regularly bring together local public services and supplier community to horizon scan and explore how the technologies of today and tomorrow can help solve some of the most pressing problems our communities face and improve outcomes for our people and places.
Prior to techUK, Georgina worked for a public policy events company where she managed the policy briefing division and was responsible for generating new ideas for events that would add value to the public sector. Georgina worked across a number of portfolios from education, criminal justice, and health but had a particular interest in public sector transformation and technology. Georgina also led on developing relationships across central and local government.
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