Digital work as a fast-track to smart cities

Digital work: laptop with sea view

In line with the global shift towards digitalisation, an increasing number of industries are opting for hybrid work arrangements for the first time, with digital transformation becoming a core focus for many sectors. The need to rapidly digitise operations has, in several ways, accelerated the move toward smart cities; i.e. areas where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunications in order to improve citizen quality of life.

With the introduction of vaccines, and a global decrease in the amount of active COVID-19 cases, cities are shifting from response to recovery. However, with survey data showing that 71% of employers plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends, it is clear that digiwork is here to stay.

This type of work produces a number of benefits from an economic, environmental, and social perspective, mainly due to the elimination of the need to commute to the workplace, as well as the reduced time and distance traveled to a working space. Additional direct and indirect environmental benefits linked to remote working include reduced noise pollution, reduced need for land for road networks and infrastructure, reduced road congestion, and savings in energy and material resources from less use of paper and plastic. Taking this into consideration, remote working tackles alarming environmental issues and helps expedite the transition toward the establishment of smart cities and communities. 

Further, as a result of the exponential increase in areas like e-commerce, we have seen increased digital inclusion through the creation of new jobs and income-generating opportunities. These opportunities have the potential to enhance household income, lift people out of poverty, and increase the resilience of rural communities. Thus, it ties directly into one of the primary objectives of smart cities; which aim to tackle socio-economic inequalities through increasing access to higher quality services for all.

Ultimately, as we move towards navigating life in the aftermath of COVID-19, it is crucial to note that smart cities are no longer simply “good-to-have”, but are increasingly becoming a choice governments must proactively make to improve quality of resident life and stay prepared for future crises. By making the choice to maintain digital work, employers and enterprises are directly contributing to the digital transformation of cities一 which serves to increase the shift toward smart cities as a whole.