Industry Spotlight: Smart Society, Empowered Citizens

Industry Spotlight: Smart Society, Empowered Citizens

13-Jul-2017 by Natalia Sakmarova

Societies we live in today are going through many changes. Factors that have an impact on the way societies form and function include population growth, increasing diversity, and, of course, the development of technology.

While there are many different opinions about what makes a truly great society, the majority of us would agree that it should have well-informed, engaged and connected citizens. In an ideal society, each member knows their rights and their freedom but respects each other as well as the established rules and norms. Everyone is provided with means to satisfy their basic needs and has access to good education, employment, and healthcare.

A truly smart society brings together individuals who share goals, challenges, and opportunities, and enables them to be part of the development and the governance of their cities.

For the crowd, by the crowd

Cosmas Blaauw and Rutger Abbink, founders of SharePeople from our Smart City & Living 2017 class, believe in the power of people and the power of a community. They share an opinion that smart society empowers its members to take responsibility for themselves and be independent of the government or other entities when it comes to healthcare and insurance.

“The state of technology allows us to build a smart society where we are able to arrange everything for ourselves by working together. In a smart society, each one of us can be independent.”

SharePeople solution is focussed on independent professionals and entrepreneurs.

More than half of us will be freelancers by 2035. People who are good at their jobs will not be tied to one workplace but will embrace digital nomadism and work for several companies at a time. While there are many benefits to being a freelancer, being alone when you need support is one of its downsides. With SharePeople, we want to create a network for independent professionals to share their risks when it comes to insurance.”

The service Cosmas and Rutger have developed enables people to have access to income in case of incapacity, without having to give away their freedom.

“More than 70% of freelancers and self-employed do not take income insurance, and we believe that one of the main reasons why is not wanting to lose their freedom. Freedom, however, comes with risks and responsibility. In case of sickness, freelancers and self-employed might be left without any income and no employer to take care of them. SharePeople helps them stay independent by providing them with a peer2peer Total Permanent Disability insurance.”

SharePeople uses a new technology that enables controlled mutual payments. Each month, they reserve a certain amount of money on the accounts of the participants. If one of them gets sick, each member of the group makes a donation from that amount to provide a basic income for the sick. The part of the monthly deposit that remains after donations to the sick (60% on average) can be used by the participants at their discretion.

“When you are employed, you get a lot of support for personal and professional growth. When you don’t have an employer, you don’t get that benefit. An important part of the SharePeople solution is the fact that participants can use their money for their personal or career development.”

In the future, founders of SharePeople plan to develop a solution for pensioners to help freelancers and self-employed keep their freedom when they reach their pension age. For that, they need to get the in-depth knowledge about people’s behavior in societies.

“We believe that with SharePeople as a network we can learn from the best practices and failures. Of course, you can look at statistical data, but a lot depends on the psychological behavior of people. That is something we are yet to discover.”

Happy and healthy citizens

Kristaps Karnitis, CEO of Bike2Work, a fellow startup from our Smart City & Living 2017 class, says that each person has their own perception of what makes a society smart. For Kristaps and his team, it is about using the latest technologies to improve the lives of citizens and the cities they live in. With his solution, Kristaps wants to improve employee welfare by encouraging the daily use of bicycles.

“72% of the Dutch employees commute to work by car or public transport and have no bikes available at the office. Imagine you could go out of the office and grab a free bike any time to cycle to lunch, coffee, or meetings. Bike2Work allows employees to easily access our office bikes via smart locks and our gamified app rewards them for their travels.”

For companies, changing the way their employees commute can make a huge difference too.

“Every year, the global economy is losing more than $300 Billion on stress-related diseases. Cycling as little as 30 minutes a day can already reduce stress levels of employees by 15% and the chance of developing a heart disease by 46%. Encouraging your employees to cycle can have a large impact on your workers’ health, productivity, and happiness.”

For Bike2Work, gathering data is largely important.

“For us, it was especially important to make the impact of Bike2Work measurable. With the data we are gathering, we are creating a public leader board which encourages healthy competition among employees and allows employers to reward their efforts. Our dashboard provides an additional overview of all the benefits such as total cycling time, calories burned, and CO2 saved.”

Talking about the importance of data collection in a smart society, Kristaps explains that is it never a one-way street.

“When it comes to a smart and connected society, a lot of technology may be taking the freedom from citizens. Think about CCTV cameras and being tracked online. All of this is a part of the future of a smart society. Gathering the data from citizens means personalized products and more security, however, we should be careful not to take away their freedom. People should be informed and know what benefits and what risks come with sharing their data.”

Natalia Sakmarova

Natalia is the Marketing Lead for our accelerator programs in Amsterdam.