In October last year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted about his plans to turn Dubai into a smart city. His Highness’ vision was to have free high-speed Wi-Fi available in all of Dubai’s public spaces within three years, allowing anyone in the city – whether citizen, resident, or visitor – access to online information, quickly, at anytime and anywhere.
The roll-out begins…
November 2013 saw the installation of free wireless along the 3.5km Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard in Downtown Dubai. In March this year, more smart city initiatives were announced, including free Wi-Fi on public transport, electric car charging stations and even a mobile device ap that helps drivers find available parking spaces.
The rise of the Always-on Consumer
The roll-out of a free city wide Wi-Fi network in Dubai underscores the significance of the Internet in the everyday lives of the ‘Always-on Consumer,’ a termed coined by a global consulting firm Vivaldi Partners to describe individuals who are connected to the Internet 24/7. A report from the organisation revealed that in a single day, these individuals use three connected devices, get on-line multiple times and do so from at least three different locations. Their study revealed that 48% of consumers today are Always-on Consumers.
The smart city and the Always-on Consumer
Throughout the day, the Always-on Consumer is researching, evaluating brands and companies, shopping, reading, consuming entertainment, or using social networks. They do this while watching TV, listening to music, eating out, or even while at work. The demise of the personal and laptop computer and the growth of tablet devices and smartphones means that individuals now demand high-speed internet wherever they are. The smart city aims to meet this demand.
Public Relations and the Always-on Consumer
For the world of public relations, free Wi-Fi across Dubai that facilitates 24/7 connectivity is a game-changer. It means re-thinking our approach to reaching stakeholders in the city, as we are rapidly shifting from having high-speed Internet most of the time to having it all of the time. A city that supports the Always-on Consumer requires public relations professionals to understand this emergent, connected individual inside-out, knowing what is important to them and how and when to reach them. Ultimately, it means blending traditional public relations with those of 24/7 connectivity.
An exciting opportunity
The smart city roll-out in Dubai is a boon for all residents, as it offers them the chance to be on-line wherever they are. But for public relations professionals, it opens up an additional exciting opportunity to shift strategies and develop new approaches to reach and influence our consumer stakeholders. They are, after all, our industry’s lifeblood.