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Biztech Sep 13, 2012

IBM Helps Cities Measure Public Social Sentiment On Critical Issues

By Staff

At the IBM Smarter Cities Forum in New Delhi, IBM unveiled a new social sentiment capability based on sophisticated analytics technologies to help cities around the world better measure and understand public opinions on key city issues and services such as public transportation, education, etc. The company also unveiled findings from the latest IBM Social Sentiment Index on traffic, which looked at public sentiment across India’s largest cities -- Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai. Analysis of publically available social media showed that the worst congestion is primarily caused by accidents and bad weather (three out of four times) when looking at the three cities together. It also indicated some interesting variations between the cities analysed. For example, social conversation in Mumbai about stress around traffic is about half as high as Bangalore and New Delhi; references to the impact of rush hour on congestion in New Delhi is between five and seven times more negative than in Bangalore and Mumbai.

"India is urbanising at an unprecedented speed. Industry sources indicate that by 2030, the urban areas will be home to 40 percent of the country’s people – doubling the urban population within a span of thirty years," said Shanker Annaswamy, Managing Director, IBM India Pvt. Ltd. "While this implies growing importance of cities as economic hubs, it brings forth a large number of challenges that can only be addressed if citizens and officials work together. Using social sentiment analysis helps city officials leverage a wealth of information from public opinion to make better decisions."

With a wealth of online content and public commentary on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, city officials need new ways to measure positive, neutral and negative opinions shared by citizens regarding important city issues. IBM’s advanced analytics and natural language processing technologies analyse large volumes of public social media data in order to assess and understand citizen opinions are being made available to city governments around the world via a new technology solution called the IBM Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Social Media Analytics. The IOC combines IBM and software and services to integrate city operations, and the added social media analytics capabilities will help city officials make more informed decisions by looking at unfiltered citizen attitudes and actions, distinguishing between sincerity and sarcasm and even predicting trends as they surface online. Combining the knowledge that population will rapidly increase in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai in the coming years, with sentiment on commuters’ preferred mode of transportation, could help these cities more accurately plan for needed investments in transportation infrastructure and its potential impact. City officials could also gauge where public awareness campaigns need to be administered to shift commuters to different modes of transport in order to alleviate growing traffic congestion.

The IBM Social Sentiment Index on transportation in India’s three largest cities surfaced several insights including:

  • The top three factors impacting traffic congestion that citizens in each city talked about most online were diverse. Delhites chattered about public transportation, weather and the stress of commuting, while Bangaloreans show more concern for their overall driving experience, construction and parking issues, and Mumbaikars are talking about private transportation, accidents and pollution more often.

  • Conversation in Bangalore around parking is viewed three times more negatively than in the other cities.

  • Despite recent infrastructure improvements, less pollution and a solid public transit system, Delhites are experiencing a far higher amount of stress (50 percent) than in Mumbai (29 percent) or Bangalore (34 percent). Most likely, this can be explained by an uptick in rallies and weather events this year, as well as the recent power outage.

  • Surprisingly, sentiment on the topic of construction was relatively positive in Bangalore and Delhi and positive and negative sentiment on infrastructure in each was relatively even. Together, these may suggest that the transportation infrastructure improvements being made over the last two years in each city are beginning to positively impact citizens.

  • Analysis shows that the relative negative sentiment for rush hour (35 percent) is one of the key drivers impacting traffic in Delhi, which may explain why citizens talk about stress significantly more than commuters in Mumbai or Bangalore.

  • By applying analytics capabilities to the area of social media sentiment, organisations are able to better understand public opinions, and city officials can gain additional insights in order to draw logical conclusions about where they should focus their attentions and resources. For example:

  • Take Bangalore, the technology hub of India. Understanding that most commuters prefer private transportation despite negative sentiment around parking and construction may indicate that city officials should consider if it makes sense to advocate for more commuters to use mass transit and invest in infrastructure that will keep up with demand as more companies locate there.

  • Since Dehlite’s indicate that public transportation is the preferred mode of transportation, city officials could use this insight to study which areas have high ridership and less road traffic and then implement similar actions in highly congested areas.

  • In Mumbai, negative sentiment around traffic and weather at the peak of monsoon season (August) generated 5.5 times more chatter than in November. If the city could measure the fluctuation of public sentiment on these potential causes over time combined with specific weather data like rainfall or temperature, it might be able to better prepare to divert traffic during monsoon season or determine areas where a public safety campaign is needed. “Like all rapidly growing cities across the world, there are infrastructure growing pains in many Indian cities,” said Guru Banavar, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Smarter Cities, IBM. “However, when city officials can factor public sentiment – positive, negative or otherwise - around city services like transportation, they can more quickly pinpoint and prioritise areas that are top of mind for their citizens. This could mean more targeted investment, improving a particular city service, more effective communication about a service that is offered, and even surfacing best practices and successful efforts that could be applied to other zones of a city.”
by Staff

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