Health and Human Services

Advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) will transform the delivery of essential health, education and other human services in powerful ways – and smart cities will ride the wave to ensure a better life for their residents.

Let’s imagine Los Angeles in the year 2030. An ill student is home in bed, following her algebra instructor’s lesson over her smartphone. The instructor asks the class to solve for X, and our student raises her hand miles away to solve the equation in real time. Later that night, through an app on the same phone, she downloads her algebra homework assignment and in a virtual classroom she and her fellow students work together to apply the day’s lessons.

She finishes her homework and opens up a new app – one that transmits data from her ongoing radiology treatment to her specialist in New York. She uses the mobile medical devices her hospital supplied and sends her health update off in a matter of minutes. Downstairs, her mother is online accessing her daughter’s medical records through the same portal that she has used to receive job training and employment referrals.

Welcome to the future of health and human services delivery, enabled by cloud-based apps, wearable devices, telepresence, robotics and other advanced technologies that will help smart cities improve the well-being of their citizens.

But before we dive too far into this chapter, let’s deal with some definitions. In the Readiness Guide we consider human services those that cities provide to support the well-being of residents – their health and welfare,their education, the clean air they breathe and even the food they eat. Whereas in previous chapters we showed how ICT makes infrastructure smarter, in this chapter we explore how ICT empowers people to be smarter and healthier. The importance of smart human services can’t be overstated – after all, an educated and healthy city is a wealthy and successful city.

Making health and human services delivery smarter

There are four inter-related areas in health and human services where ICT can substantially improve services for city residents. Because some elements of those services are not owned by cities, the effort will require participation with public and private organizations.