On Friday 22nd November 2019, we hosted our ‘Talk About What Makes A Smart City’ event at EY’s Birmingham office. The event was an opportunity to explore the future of the world’s cities and the biggest issues facing them today. From the very outset, the room was filled with progressive conversation. There was ample opportunity to network with some of our special guests over an exclusive lunch in the boardroom. Here is how it all went:
Our first session was an informative talk on the opportunities available at EY by Paul Sobers (Regional Student Recruitment Attraction Manager at EY). From apprenticeships to graduate schemes, it was clear to see the many opportunities available to attendees. Paul stressed that launching your career with EY does not rely solely on previous experience or a specific degree/lack thereof but instead, on the individual’s potential. The session provided extensive insight into the career pathways that can be pursued at the firm as well as advice and tips on video interviews. Attendees were given advice on proper video interview etiquette, the DOs and DO NOTs. This was definitely timely advice as video interviews are a common interviewing tool used by many firms today. The best bit about this session is that some of our attendees have gone on to apply for EY graduate opportunities!
The event was then formally introduced by Professor Paul Brown (Director at EY, LEP Board Member and Chair of BCU Business School). Paul Brown spoke about the importance of having a discussion around smart cities and the likelihood of change in the next few years – a change that is certainly uncertain but equally exciting. After commencing the event, attendees were then ushered to one of three stations (Cafe Conversations) led by each guest speaker where they talked about the different aspects that shape a smart city.
Professor Paul Brown’s Cafe Conversation explored the Economic and Social Impacts of Smart Cities:
“Paul was so engaging! He opened up our minds to how there are many different things that make a city “smart”. For example, part of our discussion was about transport. Initially, I would have never thought that transport has anything significant to do with smart cities. However, now I understand that when cities have better transport systems and more reliable services, people can experience better working lives. This improves how people access stores, jobs and schools which contributes to better economies. We also spoke about how smart cities don’t have to be cities where people commute to work five days a week. Instead, smart cities of the future could be cities that adapt to suit the changing working habits of people. This may mean introducing 5G so that people are able to work from home and still have access to strong and reliable internet services. This could reduce the number of people driving in and out of cities on a daily basis and therefore improve air pollution. Overall, Paul’s table was very informative. We were free to ask questions and Paul answered them and even made us laugh too! As students, we all left knowing that there is more to smart cities than just technology and instead, smart cities are shaped by a range of technological, social, environmental and economic factors.”
– Jessica Kelly
The Cafe Conversation led by Dr Lauren Traczykowski was entitled Modelling a Smart ( & Ethical !) City. This station discussed food security. Food security is defined as the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Lauren spoke of The United Nations (UN) putting the responsibility for food security in the hands of governments. An interesting thought was, who is actually in control of the food, the government or private business?
“Lauren helped us explore some of the threats to the UK’s food security such as global warming, a growing population, changes to consumption, biological agents, lack of self-sufficiency, transport, border issues and more! Dr Traczykowski introduced the us to some ethical theories. We were asked to consider Utilitarianism, an example of consequentialism which promotes actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the majority of a population. And also, Deontology, meaning obligation duty which holds the view that the morality of an action should be based on whether that action itself is right or wrong under a series of rules, rather than based on the consequences of the action. We were then asked to explain how we would ensure food security in the UK through the lens of either Utilitarianism or Deontology. However, we had to explain our ideas through the use of colourful modelling clay. Many people appreciated the use of this kinaesthetic type of learning as it allowed us to vividly express thoughts with colour coding and shape.”
– Donnell Asare
At another table was the Cafe Conversation led by Hyve Co-Founders Amon Kiplagat and Yiannis Maos (Founder of Birmingham Tech Week). Their theme was ‘How community and collaboration can contribute to a better society.’
“Speaking with Amon and Yiannis was one of the many highlights from today’s event. The question “How do you define a community?” sparked our discussion, as it is a question that a) doesn’t have a ‘correct’ answer and b) requires you to consider your values. It is through this question that they introduced us to the community canvas framework, which utilises purpose and identity as it’s core themes. Delving deeper, we uncovered how you define community is how you choose your community i.e: picking familiarity over the unknown. Amon and Yiannis stressed the importance of virtue which, by dictionary definition, is ‘moral excellence’. However in this context, it is the embodiment of a person’s values. Linking back to the topic of community, they proposed people should ask themselves, what am I doing to demonstrate my values? This will enable people to see all the different channels and platforms within their communities and discover where, as well as how, their input can come in. As our discussion drew to a close, the statement they presented, implored us to consider everything we had discussed and apply it to our own communities – “Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter”. This emphasised the importance of developing smart cities that support the communities that rely on them.
– Tanya Gohzo (Talk About Politics Contributor)
At another table was the Cafe Conversation led by Dewi Pritchard-Jones (Deputy Director Of Operations Central Region at The Prince’s Trust) whose theme explored Digital Innovation and Youth Engagement.
“He really helped us understand how the Prince’s Trust is helping young teenagers to build confidence to allow themselves to be productive by either work or education. The Trust is really making a difference to individuals and being apart of that is rewarding for anyone therefore helping those who often don’t have access to opportunities. They are building a smart city through action as it’s the people within the city that will help make the city smart.“
– Ayesha Zafar (Talk About Law Contributor)
“Dewi spoke vastly about how a smart city can incentivise young people to reform their lives. The charity seeks to help young people develop the confidence and skills to gain valuable employment, through a series of mentorship programmes and schemes which incorporate the use of technology, to make the sessions more interactive and engaging. Dewi focused his discussion on inspiring young people to be better and do better. The smarter a city is, the better the turnover rate is of young people going into employment and higher education.
– Nayab Mughal
Overall, the event was very inspiring, engaging and informative. Talk About is dedicated to facilitating events such as this to encourage more young people to access opportunities and improve their commercial fluency.