2017 in Review: My First Full Year in the Silicon Valley

2017 marks the first full year I’ve lived in America since college. It has been one crazy year – writing this took almost a week. Here’s my 2017 in review: 5 meaningful things areas of work, challenges + learnings, and hopes for 2018. I’d love to hear about your 2017 too!

  1. Engaging on the global stage: Technology and public good 

2017 started off with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where I was part of a Supersession panel discussing how cities should capitalise on the sharing economy to improve public transportation.

Not many know that this website www.techandpublicgood.com has its roots in CES. Walking around the exhibitions, I understood first-hand the quantum leap in technological progress enabled by data, computing resources, ubiquitous connectivity and algorithmic progress.

CES

I left CES feeling strangely disconnected. Over the December ’16 holidays, I had read Hillbilly Elegy, a story of middle class decay in America, and had been reflecting on my roots in social, educational and welfare policy. Questions, to which I had no easy answers, became fodder for articles on www.techandpublicgood.com

In total, we have had over 40,000 readers in the past year, including republications on sites such as Smart and Connected Cities and GovInsider.

2017 also brought opportunities to engage with these issues on the global stage.

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At the Singularity University Global Summit in August 2017. Video here.

From January to December, I spoke at 15 events, including:

Artificial Intelligence and Social Good” at the AI Expo in SF;

The Future of Smart Cities” at the WorldsFair Nano,

Self Driving Cars and Society” at AI By the Bay,

Data and Networks in Smart Cities” at Smart Cities Connect in Austin Texas,

The Future of Intelligent Mobility” at Innovfest Unbound in Singapore,

“Self Driving Everything: The Impact on Cities” at the Singularity University Global Summit.

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Facilitating a discussion with Feng-Yuan Liu (Govtech), Doug Parker (Nutonomy), Nick Jachowski (SWAT) and Xinwei  Ngiam (Grab) on the Future of Mobility in Asia. May 201

End-2017, I was appointed Faculty member at Singularity University, an amazing global community which is excited about using technology for social good. I like to think that by the efforts of us all, emerging technology will be used to make society just a little more equal, more cohesive, more inclusive of minorities than before.

What topics on tech and public good do you want to hear more about in 2018?

  1. Connecting with smart city leaders 

2017 also brought opportunities to engage inspiring thought-leaders at the intersection of technology and government. Many have become friends, not just collaborators. These included:

  • Smart city leaders in the U.S. (e.g. Seattle, D.C., Austin, Orlando New York, SF, San Jose)
  • Universities and non-profits examining technology governance (e.g. the Stanford Policy and Innovation Initiative, the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Global Foundations Challenge in Sweden)
  • Tech companies seeking to disrupt public services in transportation, healthcare, energy, etc, resulting in many link-ups across borders
  • A wide range of Singaporean leaders who visit the Silicon Valley periodically, including both our Deputy Prime Ministers and delegations from transportation, healthcare, defense, Singapore’s NSF-equivalent and so on

While a popular perception is that Governments are backward and arcane when it comes to emerging technology, my experience couldn’t be more different.

City leaders understand the huge potential of emerging technologies and their specific applications (e.g. AI and IOT applied to smart lamp-posts, self-driving cars, digital health) to solve existential governance challenges: improving outcomes for city dwellers while reducing costs and manpower, reducing traffic congestion as population explodes, moving healthcare systems towards disease prevention, rather than costly treatments.

However, there is tremendous uncertainty when it comes to adopting emerging technology in public services.  

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With my fellow panellists at Smart Cities Connect in Austin, Texas: Rosa Akhtavari (CIO of Orlando) and Kip Harkness (CIO of San Jose)
  • Which use cases are game-changing enough to justify the upfront capital investments?
  • If we need to develop public-private partnerships or purchase solutions from the tech companies, how do we reconcile the trade-offs in data ownership, privacy and algorithmic accountability?
  • How far ahead can we race with experimentation before some of these issues catch up with us?
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Singapore’s Smart Nation team had a deep exchange with Washington DC’s outgoing CTO, Archana Vemulapalli, in November. Smart cities need to find better ways of working together.

In the next 5 years, we will see many successes and failures in the smart cities space.

Failures will be hard for Governments to stomach because ‘losing’ public monies is always more galling than losing private investments.

Yet it is better than standing still. Like it or not, emerging technology is going to disrupt traditional public services such as healthcare, education, city management and transportation.

Governments need to get their foot in early and help make self driving cars, AI, IOT and digital health work for the widest range of city-dwellers possible: not just those who can afford it.  

  1. Building a community among Singaporeans-in-technology

A group of 16-year old girls visited the Silicon Valley in October. They met big names, inspiring founders, judges and venture capitalists. I hosted one of their final sessions, and a question left me ruminating for months. In gist: “many Singaporeans think that living in the Silicon Valley is so much better than living in Singapore. Why are you such a huge champion for Singapore?”

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Hosting a group of 16-year olds visiting the Silicon Valley as part of their school trip

Over the course of 2017, I’ve met over two hundred Singaporeans living the Bay Area. Sure, many reflect on the better career opportunities, weather, outdoor activities and family time available in the Silicon Valley (compared to Singapore).

But I also frequently get asked (1) What’s happening in the tech scene back home? (2) Is there a way to contribute? In a short digital survey conducted at one of my Singaporean-in-tech events, data showed that over 70% wanted to contribute to Singapore even though they might not be ready to move back

In 2018, I want to reflect on what it means to be a country in this digital, globalized age. Perhaps countries will no longer define themselves by their borders but by their people. The Singaporean diaspora is spread all throughout the world, many in highly influential positions (we have CTOs all over the valley!). How can we involve them in our country’s future?

I am also interested to explore who is in this overseas Singaporean tech community and how to engage them in a way that is suitable to their needs and preferences. Case in point: in July this year, Jacqueline Poh, our Chief Executive of Govtech Singapore, spent six weeks in the Valley and wanted to host a dinner with Singaporeans in tech. By then I had met dozens of Singaporeans living in the Valley, but very few women. “How many Singaporean women-in-tech do you think there are in the Valley?” I asked some friends who had been around longer. “5? 10? At most 15 perhaps. Don’t get your hopes up”; most replied.

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Our first Singaporean women-in-tech gathering in July, which sparked a community of volunteers!

Within an hour of posting my invitation on Linkedin, we had reached full capacity of 60 Singaporean women. Data scientists, product managers, investors, software engineers, product and growth marketers showed up in full force. In past events, women formed at most 5% of the attendees – why?  

Singaporeans living in the Valley: how would you like to engage with Singapore’s tech scene more? Singaporeans at home: how would you like to engage with fellow Singaporeans living in the Valley?

  1. Exploring issues facing women and other workplace minorities

2017 was the year that gender-based harassment and discrimination exploded to the public eye in the Silicon Valley. Personally, I also came to identify with the experiences of minorities, upon entering the technology sector as a non-engineer and moving to America as a foreigner in the Trump era.

I’m curious about the experiences of women, and other minorities, in the workplace.

October: Women’s Forum in Paris

An opportunity to explore these issues deeper came up when the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society sponsored my trip to Paris to share about how technology can keep people in work, and to participate in their Rising Talents program for women leaders under 40.

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I had an amazing four days engaging with women who are doing ground-breaking work, in big tech and start-ups, legal advocacy for girls in war-torn countries, healthcare providers in underserved communities etc. My experience and reflections on womens’ and minority issues here.

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With my co-panellists at the Women’s Forum: May Busch, Heather Cykoski (ABB), Christele Genty (Google) and Elisabeth Moreno (Lenovo).

November: Singaporeans-in-tech: Panel and Dinner 

In November, I led a group of amazing volunteers to organize a panel and dinner with Singaporean women-in-tech, who shared their career journeys in the Bay Area. Our event was over-subscribed by both men and women, Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans. The panel was honest, thought-provoking and inspiring.

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From L-R: me, Yen Low (Netflix), Aihui (Edgilife), Joo Lee Lim (GIC), Aakriti Agrawal (Blend)

A memorable moment was when I asked the panellists which Singaporean mindsets which helped and hindered us in the Valley. Aihui Ong, founder of Edgilife, shared how her Singaporean comfort with multiculturalism subconsciously shapes her hiring decisions – Edgilife is one of the most diverse start-ups in town (represent!)

Yen Low’s dogged Singaporean attitude enabled her to acquire data science skills and become a respected member in a male-dominated field at Netflix. Aakriti and Joo Lee shared the challenges of breaking into a market where they had no prior networks, plus tips for putting yourself out there and developing a ‘personal brand’ – something many of us did not have to do in Singapore (in fact it can be frowned upon in Singapore).

I could almost hear a sigh of relief from the audience (and certainly myself) when these accomplished women shared their experiences so candidly.

Hearing from fellow Singaporeans helped many attendees normalize, rather than personalize the uncomfortable experience of being a foreigner who needs to ‘break into’ the prevailing culture. Dozens sent me private messages afterwards to ask if we could have more of such conversations in the Singaporean community, and volunteered to help put more events together.

December: Asia Society Women’s Leadership Breakfast

December rounded off with an Asia Society womens’ leadership breakfast, where I had the opportunity to discuss issues facing Asian women in the Silicon Valley with Shie Lundeberg (Google), Shirley Ma (McKinsey), Tina Lee (Mothercoders) and Katie Benner (New York Times). Another eye-opening conversation, another set of inspiring women.

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The minority experience is one of constant reinvention, and defying – even overcompensating for – stereotypes. It is never quite feeling like an insider. I come out of 2017 much more aware of the responsibilities that majorities have in making workplaces and common spaces inclusive, and the responsibilities of minorities to support each other in a way that does not become exclusive or incendiary.

  1. Pursuing my passion for coaching

Finally, I enrolled in an 8-month coaching certification program in 2017. Though I’ve done this informally for many years, a personal goal is to master the art of helping people become more effective in achieving their goals. A workplace relationship they want to improve? A difficult conversation with their boss? Managing a major transition healthily? Fixing communications breakdowns? Becoming the boss for the first time?

Coaching is about creating that safe space for someone else to explore different perspectives, widen their options, and stay accountable to committed actions. I don’t know about you, but I find that the busyness of adult life makes it difficult to break out of old patterns, even if they are inhibitive to our professional and personal goals. Developing a coaching relationship is one solution.

In 2018, I’ll be writing more on the topic of coaching and leadership, building on these three articles that I wrote in 2017.

As part of my course I’ll also be taking on coaching clients starting in February, so do get in touch if you are interested!

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With my coaching Learning Group: Mahesh (a Paypal engineer), Deborah (an Episcopalian priest), Oliver (an actor and facilitator), PK (a sales consultant) and David (a Chief Compliance Office).

Challenges in 2017

2017 has been one of the most exciting and challenging years of my career to date. I’ve learned that I enjoy the ‘start-up’ life: experimenting, iterating, pivoting, and finding that elusive ‘product market fit’.

However, like any start-up, work is fraught with high highs (the market is responding; this is what is needed!) and low lows (what am I even doing?). I’ve learned to follow my convictions, amidst the many confusing signals about what I ‘should be’ or ‘should not be’ doing.

Fortunately, I have amazing, progressive bosses (Kok Yam and Chee Khern) who have given me so much latitude and trust. This is definitely NOT a traditional Government posting. I also have many, many brilliant, supportive co-workers across the Singapore public service who are just a call away (shout-out to Daniel Lim, Feng Yuan,  Mark Lim, Jacqui, Pui San, Rebecca, Shi-Hua, Chor Pharn, Titus, Kai Jit, Yang Boon, Simon Phua, Victor Tan, Stanley Leong, Lynn Khoo, Kenneth Teo, Melanie Tan, Heng Jie, Brandon, Sidra Ahmed… the list goes on). My husband, who is doing a PhD in statistics at Stanford, has also been an incredible support at work.

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End-of-the-year sunset in Southeast Asia

Nevertheless, I’ve realized that the extrovert in me needs a team in the same geography to be collaborators, sounding boards, and ultimately to start scaling up. Thankfully, I’m expanding the team in 2018, and plan to work much closer with other teams in the Bay Area!

I also need to work on pacing myself better in 2018. In my impatience to adjust to a new job, new country, new baby, new home and new community, I ended off 2017 very tired.

Thankful for some much-needed down-time by the ocean, with family!

Bring it on, 2018.

I enter 2018 with a mood of curiosity.

How can I serve the world, and my local community, in 2018?

Which direction should http://www.techandpublicgood.com take?

How can we shift the relationship between tech companies and Governments from defensive regulatory battles to co-creators of a more inclusive equal, and cohesive societies, assisted by technology?

How should countries think about their economic strategy in a digital, globalized age, where physical borders matter less and less?

How can we build workplaces and common spaces that are inclusive of minorities?

There is so much more to learn and contribute to the world. There are so many more relationships to build and deepen. I’m excited.

I’d love to hear about your 2017 and your hopes for 2018! 

 

 

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Smart Cities Connect 2017 – Interview and Takeaways

I was in Austin, Texas, in June to represent Singapore at Smart Cities Connect 2017. I  participated in a panel on Data and Networks with the CIO/Chief Data Architects of San Jose, Orlando and Austin; served as a reviewer for eight Urban Mobility Start-up pitches, and had incredible side-meetings with CTO/CIOs across America. In an interview with Chelsea Collier, Smart City Connect’s Editor-at-Large, I shared some takeaways:

An Interview with Karen Tay, Smart Nation Director, Singapore

By: Chelsea Collier, Smart Cities Connect 

Chelsea Collier [CC]: I’m so happy to have you here at Smart Cities Connect.

Karen Tay [KT]: Thank you, I’m glad to be in your city after you visited Singapore a few months ago.

CC: I was so blown away not only by what you all are doing, but how you’re doing it, and how intentional and collaborative everyone in the government proper is. I was very very inspired by what I saw there.

KT: Thank you, yes it’s not without challenges. I think one of my takeaways from this conference is that we all face the same challenges, and part of it is organizational: how we are set up in a way that gets all the different domains to collaborate on Smart City Projects. That is not something that comes naturally because we are so used to working in silos. By setting up a smart city team (typically within the CIO or CTO’s office), actually many cities in the U.S. are doing similar things to Singapore. 

CC: Good, and I’m so excited that there’s so much progress being made just in the past year. This is the second time we’ve done this conference, the first time was in June here in Austin in 2016, and just in that span of one year I’ve seen so many cities go from intention, and more of an ethereal concept to really launching into strategic conversations and into pilots, and talking about scaling. So I’m impressed by how quickly it’s moving. It might not feel that way on the city side because you’re there day in and day out but from the outside world it’s really exciting.

KT: Definitely and I think it’s also driven by compelling use cases. One of the great people I met at this conference was Rosa Akhtarkhavari, the Orlando CIO. She talked about how the Orlando shootings really brought to the fore some of the technology needs that needed to be met and how they’re now going to build video analytics capabilities. I think it’s always driven by the use case. You cannot build too far ahead without the use case in mind. And I think that’s what driving the speed of progress.

[NB: during the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016, Rosa’s ideal scenario was if she could pump the secondary shooter’s picture into the system, and analytics at the edge could flag out which locations the secondary shooter was seen. (Rather than to bring all the video feeds in and analyze in the cloud/data center, which would slow things down). However, she found that current capabilities did not allow for that.]

CC: Perfect. So any big lessons learned these past couple of days, or what you’ve learned that can benefit you back at work?

KT: I think one of the dominant themes of a smart city conference in the U.S. is how are you going to pay for this digital infrastructure.

In Singapore we are prudent with how we spend but I think we are fortunate that we have the resources to build some of these things. But what I really took away is that even if you have the resources, you have to have discipline of thinking about the economics of it.

I really appreciated the discussions like Chicago collaborating with the university, or San Jose working with a company that’s willing to sponsor a lot of these sensor deployments, or even companies like Civic Connect, which are saying “well, our funders are okay for us to pay for this free of charge to the city as long as we have a business model which will reap the benefits”. I think in Singapore we will benefit a lot from thinking about this economic discipline, just as the U.S. is forced to do. I think that was one of my main takeaways.

However I also think that the government cannot run away from paying for some of these services. It cannot completely be left to the private sector because of this idea of digital inclusion. Fundamentally, the government needs to be able to ensure that use cases which will not yield economic returns will still be accounted for. Who else could do that in society? 

[Another key takeaway that I did not mention in the interview concerned privacy in smart cities. All cities – especially American – want to change the narrative that lumps “surveillance” with “data collection”. CIOs recognize that if there is the capacity to identify people for serious crimes such as terrorism, there is the capacity to identify anyone else. Hence the issue is not about limiting our capacity to do identify people through video footage, but ensuring predictability, accountability and transparency in how the data is used.

Cities need to give citizens utmost assurance in this regard. I believe Seattle has a good model to learn from: Seattle put in place a privacy “self review” process, where every department seeking to launch a technology solution has to undergo a “self review” according to the 6 privacy principles (which were established a few years ago). Any technology project that collects data also has to pass through the City Council’s approval. “At-risk” cases are flagged up by the city’s Chief Privacy Officer in the CTO’s office. She advises on precautions and typically pushes them to conduct a public consultation.]

CC: I think as the public sector and the private sector get more comfortable working together they can have strategic and very honest conversations about that and everybody can own their piece of it. And there’s just no time to waste, the problems aren’t getting smaller. They’re only escalating and technology has the potential to really help make some headway there.

KT: I think so. I think there are problems like homelessness, inequality, access to healthcare – all these are big problems waiting to be solved and technology can. It’s a matter of having those conversations.

CC: Perfect. So glad you’re here. Thanks for joining us.

KT: Thank you.

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The Death of the Mall, Why It Matters, And How Technology Can Help (by Anita Ngai)

This is a guest post by Anita Ngai, who has extensive experience in technology, retail and urban development. She worked in McKinsey for 4 years before transitioning to Real Estate in Hong Kong, and online travel. She was trained as a structural engineer. She is currently exploring a start-up idea focused on helping developers become more data-driven in their planning and leasing processes. You can contact her here.

I love that domain experts – in this case – a structural engineer cum real estate professional, are thinking about how technology can transform the way their industry works. Hope you enjoy her article as much as I did!

Anita

 

WHY IS THE MALL DYING?

“The Death of the American Mall”, “Ghost Malls in China”, “Are Malls Over?”, “Is the Physical Shopping Mall Dead?”, “China’s Ghost Towns and Phantom Malls” – if you google search the term “shopping malls”, these headlines pop up. What’s interesting is that these headlines cover places as diverse as the Midwest US to the large metropolitans of China. Some reasons for this trend include:

  1. Online shopping
  2. Urbanization – higher concentration of population and/or wealth means less retail space needed in suburbs
  3. Changing demographics – deceleration of population growth, aging core group
  4. Slowing income growth/increasing inequality – weaker GDP growth; wealth more concentrated in hands of a smaller number of people
  5. Change in consumer preferences – trend that millennials prefer to live and occupy less space
  6. Overbuilding catch up – we have been overbuilding for some time, and it’s finally catching up (as New York Times quoted a real estate executive: “The mall genie was out of the bottle, and it was never going to come back.”)
  7. Poor management – bifurcation of malls into great versus terrible ones that don’t survive

The death of the malls poses serious challenges to developers and planners. Their previous paradigm, “build a mall and people will come”, no longer holds today. Instead of building new malls, developers need to focus on conversions and repurposing of existing malls and spaces.[1]

THE PROBLEM OF UNDER-UTILIZED ASSETS IN A CITY: WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Underutilized mall spaces are not just a problem for developers – they are a waste of a city’s precious land resources. For example, in dense cities like Hong Kong, where I worked in real estate in different roles for four years, the competing demands on land are very real – retail is very much in demand by the upper-middle class and mainland Chinese tourists. On the other hand, the housing crisis is getting more and more acute because of the lack of space for new housing developments.

Instead of allowing new retail spaces to be built nearby, or even tearing down retail spaces, it makes more sense to convert and enhance existing retail spaces. Maintaining density levels in urban and suburban areas can bring socioeconomic benefits. Furthermore, the carbon footprint of retrofitting has been shown to generally be much lower than demolition and rebuild.  All this means that potential public and private investments into our built environment can be better directed, to projects with higher value to society.

THE PROMISE OF TECHNOLOGY IN BOOSTING MALL UTILISATION

In the age of Airbnb and Uber, one would think we could do better in optimizing the underutilized assets in malls. Indeed, technology holds tremendous potential in helping developers do this – both at the planning and the post-completion stages.

Planning Stage:

Collecting and analyzing data can help developers customize their projects to their potential users. In the past, developers only had blunt demographic data (population size, income levels, age composition) on which to base their plans. Now, sensors and mobile phones can capture large volumes of finer data e.g. what types of shops women between 30-40 in the geographical vicinity dwell longer and spend more money at.

Combining all this data, developers can use sophisticated statistical simulations and machine learning to predict the foot traffic, occupancy levels, and likely visitor profile (e.g. income-level) of the project if they vary the proportion of space dedicated to retail vs entertainment vs hospitality/accommodations.

Testing hundreds of scenarios of the project mix and layout would only take seconds, but is close to impossible for humans to do – both from data collection and computational analysis perspectives.

Post-completion Stage:

 After the project is built, there are decisions that developers and their leasing teams have to make continually – who should we lease each space to? How should we price each space? How long should the lease period be for each space ( the default now is 3-5 years depending on the market which works for some, but not for others).

Each of these decisions has tremendous ramifications for the mall’s utilization. For example, putting a fast-food restaurant at a certain entrance to a mall would draw a lot more footfall through that door, versus a beauty supply store or the front lobby of a three-star hotel. For each space in a mall – whether a back corner on the ground floor or center core on the third floor, a fast-fashion tenant, quick service restaurant or three to four food court stalls will each have a different footfall impact, chance of success, and likelihood of sustaining their business over the long-run.

Developers also need to be more flexible with the use of space – pop-up stores, for example, have helped ease some of the long-term vacancies or low footfall issues that landlords are seeing in their retail properties. But this is not done in a data-driven or widespread way: pop-up stores are often under the purview of marketing teams, and theleasing teams may only take a support role.

If developers collect and analyze data effectively, they will also be able to lease their spaces and re-configure their malls based on real-time data. All this boosts utilization and uses space most efficiently.

SO WHY IS IT NOT HAPPENING? AN INSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE

Having worked in real estate for a number of years, here are the factors that hold back these obvious innovations from taking off.

The first reason lies in how developers think about innovation. The only teams within those organizations thinking about innovation and technology – some form of a “digital” department and an incubator/VC – are not usually tasked with looking at the design process. They focus on “downstream” issues like improving customer experiences in a shopping mall or on having a bet in a start-up who will “hit it big” one day.

Second, even if a developer/owner is motivated to take a data-driven approach to design, a single company’s portfolio of property may not be large enough to yield data that is representative of the market view. Certain Asian developers come closest to controlling the ownership of an entire neighborhood or district, but worried about competition, they would not be motivated to share this data with the industry, competitors or brokerage firms.

A third reason is similar to what we have seen in many other industries: existing players will only make incremental changes, until someone new comes in to disrupt traditional practices. Tech start-ups have been active in the real-estate sector, but mainly in three areas:

  • Real estate transactions
  • IoT and smart homes/buildings/cities (the fridge that will order for you when you’re out of milk, the trash can that sends a signal when it’s full and needs to be serviced) and
  • Visualization (VR for potential buyers to walk through their unbuilt/faraway home; 3D rendering and VR experience of construction blueprints).

Unfortunately, I have not seen many start-ups work on applications that will help with the design and planning of malls. There are a few providing heat maps of where footfall is in a mall; or analyzing the type of store a given neighborhood needs, e.g. apparel, doctor’s office. Mapping start-ups are currently focused on other areas of applications, such as self-driving cars.

MY HOPES FOR THIS SECTOR

Retail makes up a significant portion of a city’s built space inventory: San Francisco has about 76.3 million square feet of office space versus 80.5 million square feet of retail space. It will remain a useful and desired part of city life for time to come. However, it will be a costly waste of precious city space if the trend of underutilization continues. Developers will be able to buck this trend if they use a far more data-driven approach to planning and leasing.

I sketched out the challenges above, and I believe they can be overcome if developers can take a longer-term view to invest in evolving their planning and design processes and to incorporate new data and technologies available. The benefits from using new approaches are not easily quantifiable without having tested them, so sticking strictly to ROI figures will not lead decision makers down this path.

Also, more startups and public agency collaborations such as Uber Movement and World Bank’s Open Transport Partnership would allow the immense amount of data being accumulated to become transparent for public use. Having a public agency host data from different private sources may help overcome more data privacy concerns floating around, though these agencies would likely need tech companies to help them improve on data security. Governments can play a more proactive role in facilitating progress, through regulations and test projects, and I believe the municipal level – because of smaller size and relatively less partisan impasse – will be the best testing grounds.

[1] (Of course, there are still places where there is a real growth in the population or local economy, and so new retail space is indeed needed.)

[2]A number of studies actually show that higher densities can lead to higher public expenditure per capita, though there is evidence that this is due to government management practices, e.g. higher government employee compensation. In addition, lower densities do not necessarily increase public expenditure because the costs for sewage, electricity and other infrastructure are actually priced into the new houses, i.e. bore by the residents themselves. Benefits from higher density developments are more obvious if we include quality of life metrics (e.g. traffic congestion, air pollution).