A conversation with Alessio Antonini
– What is MK Insight today, and where do you see it going?
Now, currently, MK Insight is designed to put all open data together to facilitate the exchange of data within the Council and with local organizations, so policies and decisions are based on data. It sounds reasonable, but this is a big change in the way of thinking everywhere!
– So data becomes useful when it responds to a direct citizen need. What kind of citizen needs do you imagine responding to?
We don’t need to imagine! We had experience within the MK Smart project, such as MK Insight Observatory and the Social Atlas used by citizens and local organizations; we collaborate with the Council and local SMEs on a daily base to understand the problems they need answered. For example, SMEs who are considering launching a business in Milton Keynes need to know: are there talented people? What’s the infrastructure? What’s the regulation coming in the near future? Nowhere currently has this information. Answering these questions, we can help citizens, as well as help the city attract investment and talented people to build business here.
– Milton Keynes is very advanced in this citizen-centric perspective. How has the city got here? What are they doing to stand out?
On the city level, think of Milton Keynes as a huge laboratory. We built a reputation because we took an experimental approach, worked on so many topics, and became a platform for other cities to build on. We are open, and we make things happen –and then other cities can use our infrastructure.
– So your latest experiment has been to try out Citibeats. How does it fit in with your philosophy on smart cities?
Citibeats is very complimentary to our project –it is the part we are still missing, which is essential. Citizen social media data is totally different from open data, or sensors data. What is there is actually their life. People are not talking about ‘healthcare system parameters’ –they’re talking about their health problems, and their life!
The experience with Citibeats was good, very good actually. The tool is very simple, easy to manage, and you get feedback fast –it’s what you need. Here’s why I think Citibeats is important: the social media ecosystem is a mess. You cannot have an expert to understand what is going on, because things just move to fast. You are missing important things and you don’t even know what you are losing. I am not an expert, and we don’t need an expert: I spent half a day to set it up, and got the results during the next weeks. It was amazing!
In particular, it is very reliable and gives a fast insight. The Beats are the most important part, because there is no other way to understand what is going on using the real words of people. It opened a new window. We’re really looking forward to your future, we expect great things!