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by Pärt Ojamaa, Consultant, Human-Centric Public Services

How tech-enhanced governance promotes a simpler life: A day in a citizen-centered state in 2035

Flying cars may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your Jetsons Family future. But what if that tech revolution were more subtle (and yet also more all-encompassing)? New govtech is giving society the tools to move toward an automated, personalized state—one that simplifies every part of your life.

Of course, this might sound like a heady proposition. Let’s explore what this personal state might actually look like. Let’s consider a morning in the life of one future fictional citizen—Zuzu, we’ll call her—and how she navigates her personalized state.

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Is it okay to laugh in divorce therapy?

It’s 11 am, and Zuzu is laughing with her soon to be ex-husband. At their pre-divorce couple’s counseling session the counselor just hit the nail on the head regarding Karel’s personality, saying “Karel is like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice—enigmatic and intelligent. At first, he seems arrogant—but later, his gentler romantic side opens up.”

Zuzu and Karel have decided to end their “starter marriage,” which they jumped into in their early twenties perhaps a bit too quickly. There’s a public event service available for divorce, which helps couples complete all of the steps online.

The counselor’s description of Karel was sympathetic. The counselor, after all, not only had access to a wide array of therapy literature, but all of world literature as well—the upsides of being an AI. It’s hard to compete with that, they agreed! But it an unexpected laugh to start the day—a therapy session to remember.

For their mandated pre-divorce couples’ therapy, Zuzu and Karel chose an AI divorce counselor. This was partly out of curiosity; also, they did not consider their split so tragic that they needed human help. And their AI counselor, with such a wealth of examples whirring in its algorithmic “brain,” turned out to have no trouble helping them put things in context.

Even though their entire divorce procedure can unfold digitally, both Zuzu and Karel will still need to physically appear at the notary to give their final confirmation. But otherwise, that’s it! Any other details, such as changing last names, is fully automated in inter-institutional databases nowadays. Zuzu simply has to confirm that she understands and consents to using her maiden name.

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My health is my wealth

However, Zuzu decided to go the rest of the way on foot. The weather was gorgeous out; she also needed to take care of her health score to keep her health insurance deductions low.

Zuzu has given her permission to various parties to monitor her health. She has voluntarily provided AI-based analysts at the Health Insurance Fund, her insurance company, and her bank access to her health and behavioral data. She knows the data can only be accessed by AI analysts operating in highly secured systems, and trusts the system’s security.

With regular workouts, Zuzu has significantly boosted her health score, which allows her to reduce her health insurance deductions—behavior favoring a healthy lifestyle automatically lowers her premium—and indirectly decrease her credit risk in the eyes of the banks. This was especially important as Zuzu was moving soon. She needed a high score to increase her leasing options.

Zuzu’s 15-minute city

When it comes to finding her next place, Zuzu has also provided an overview of her regular commutes and modes of transportation to the municipality’s AI analyst. Based on her data, she regularly gets notifications regarding the most relevant offers for municipal apartments.

The AI considers a citizen’s movement activity, movement patterns, family status, and special needs to make personalized offers for municipal apartments in the city. At the core of the planning is the “15-minute city” model: the idea that citizens can access all vital services within a 15-minute walk (combined with public/shared transport). This ensures user-friendly urban space and safety, and cuts back on noise, pollution, and resource waste.

Municipal living spaces, leased to those in densely populated urban areas, are something between an Airbnb and a hotel room. These spaces, provided by the city, are not overly large, but keep prices low in dense urban areas. Hot properties in the city center are not owned by a small slice of the wealthier elite, who often collect real estate for investment purposes. Instead, the city keeps its vibrance as a lively, coherent, and diverse citizen-centered environment. Meanwhile, direct property ownership is more common on the outskirts of the city and in rural areas.

Work – a place to connect with people

On her walk, Zuzu received a message from her personal assistant suggesting she work in the office more next week for her mental health. It was true that with the ongoing divorce she had preferred working just about anywhere but the office. But she recognized that seeing her colleagues would be good for her. Plus, her team had just experienced some changes, and the company needed reassurance that the team’s human connections were solid both in and outside the virtual world.

An personalized AI-based solution with access to her data, Zuzu’s personal assistant receives data on her behalf and repackages it for her consumption in a way that suits her. This personal assistant is Zuzu’s “digital other,” initiating simple services, distinguishing important notifications from less important ones, and acting as a protective membrane between Zuzu and the information-overloaded digital world.

We all know how overwhelming the modern information economy can be. Zuzu’s personal assistant deliver information in the proper ratios—at the right time and in the right way—to preserve her mental health. It filters out the digital noise. At the same time, the assistant also directs Zuzu toward activities that promote her health in other areas by assessing her daily routine.

Personal government empowers Zuzu to live her best life

At the end of the day, Zuzu kicks back with a friend and reminisces about the day. She tells her friend all about her funny divorce process, her incident with the car, and how she missed her team and their meetings.

She shows them pictures of her possible new home on her phone and realizes come this time next week, she and Karel would have their last dinner together after confirming their divorce at the notary. She also tells her friend about how their AI counselor said Karel was like a character from a Jane Austin novel. She reflects on how much has changed in her personal life—both internally, but in her day-to-day interactions.

This was no ordinary day for Zuzu, perhaps—but represents the sort of interactions people will have every day in this new seamless personalized society.

In all of the transactions, the personal state hums in the background, simplifying and streamlining Zuzu’s day. Rather than worrying about bureaucracy, she doesn’t even have to think about it—it’s simply there for her.

Of course, to pull it off, there’s an essential pre-condition tucked away in all this—trust in data. These optimized, personalized public services depend on precise data usage. That in turn depends on consumer trust in sharing said data—and transparency from government regarding data usage.

AI doesn’t have to be a terminator crouching in the uncanny valley, waiting for the right moment to assert supremacy. Instead, maybe it’s more like a that friendly Microsoft paperclip, now living in your smartphone—the efficiency of which is measured only by how much and how effectively it can help you.

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