Thankfully, we are starting to see advanced technologies that promote inclusivity. Among them:
Virtual city halls and kiosks. In Nice, France, a “virtual city hall cabin” was set up in a shopping mall in 2013. The “cabin” is equipped with Cisco high-definition video equipment that allows residents to interact face-to-face with a remote agent who receives and processes requests. The point is to bring public services closer to places residents typically frequent (such as municipal libraries and shopping malls), with extended operating hours. Although convenience is one objective, this scenario also enables citizens without Internet access to connect to city services without making a trip to city hall.
Prepaid cards for unbanked citizens. Cities can provide their financially excluded citizens with prepaid products seamlessly collect and make payments. In 2013, Oakland, California became the first municipality in the U.S. to issue a city ID prepaid debit card to provide a government ID for residents lacking an official form of identification and to provide optional, secure financial services and products to those unbanked and under-banked. All city residents able to provide proof of identity and residency in Oakland are eligible for the card.
Mobile apps with translation capabilities. As cities create apps that give access to city services, they can overcome language barriers via translation technology. For example, the city of Costa Mesa, California launched its Costa Mesa Connect app in partnership with New York-based PublicStuff. The app features One Voice Translation to support over 17 languages. When a resident submits a request in another language, the request is automatically translated into English for city staff. Any subsequent updates on the request are automatically translated back into the resident’s preferred language.
Benefits of smart payments and finance
Before we give you specific guidance for improving financial management and payment, let’s examine how those improvements enhance a city’s livability, workability and sustainability.
Making convenience a priority with smart payments. Long lines at the counter, long hold times on the phone and slow response to emails don’t cut it in today’s fast-paced world. Smart payments offer faster, more convenient solutions. A few examples:
- The New Delhi (India) Municipal Council introduced smart cards that residents can use to pay their utility bills.
- In London, services such as PaybyPhoneenable consumers to pay for parking from their mobile phone; no need to carry change. They can even top up the meter remotely, saving a trip back to the parking spot.
Instead of standing in line to buy tickets, public transit riders in Sydney, Australia use their prepaid Opal cards to tap on a card reader at the start of a trip and again at the end. And not only do Opal cards offer convenience for bus, ferry and train riders, they also offer fare incentives, including free travel after eight paid journeys in a week.