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Of IQ and smart cities



READERS will probably wonder what my column is all about, with that title. Well, it is actually about surveys and media organizations, which frame and prime stories. It is also about critical thinking, where citizen journalists are able to do lateral thinking more than some traditional journalists often do these days.

There was a candidate in the recent elections who would insult voters by calling them bobo (idiots). Clearly, insulting the voters was not a good strategy because if it was, he would have won with his unique messaging and positioning strategy. But at the end of the campaign, he was eating dust and the insult was on him. I used to tell students that there are no bobo. Everyone has inherent capacities depending on the nurturing factors of family, friends, schools, peers, media and self. But these days, ludicrous headlines are made for clickbait and instant gratification. In the social media world, sharing becomes instantaneous. No pause to think. No research. Just believe what one reads as gospel truth.


There were several surveys that came out last week in the broadsheets, from the usual approval, trust and net satisfaction ratings of the two domestic commercial survey houses and other international polling organizations on quality of life in smart cities. So, when a local magazine talked about IQ and printed an article titled, “The Philippines is dead last in the ranking of smartest countries in Asean,” conscientious readers did a double take. The lead paragraph of the article went: “Intelligence quotient, or IQ, is often used as the standard of measuring smartness. It is the ability of a person to learn. A high IQ indicates that a person is intelligent and has an ability to learn things faster, while a low IQ indicates low intelligence or a lower ability to learn faster.” And then it linked this paragraph with “Manila ranked among the lowest in the world’s smartest cities,” citing the World’s Population Review 2019 as its source.

The magazine, using the IQ definition and priming the same with smart cities, consequently concluded that the Philippines and Manila, specifically, was not smart. The insult was to the Filipinos and their leaders, both at the national and local levels.

IQ has nothing to do with smart cities.

IQ these days is not even the best measurement of success in the 21st century. “IQ is a number that indicates a person reasoning or logical ability in comparison to the statistical norm. Conversely, EQ implies the level of person’s emotional intelligence.” It has been said, “your IQ is what determines your competencies and individual capacities, but your EQ determines how you interact and treat people in your life, it shows how you are going to cope with pressures or face the crisis. The difference between these two is that no one can alter his/her intelligence or reasoning abilities, but anyone can learn to handle emotions, to bring success for him.” These days, there are adversity quotient or AQ, psychological quotient or SQ, artificial intelligence or AI, etc., which only means intelligence is defiance in so many ways.

Based on the IMD Smart City Index 2019, Manila ranked among the lowest at 94 out of 102 cities. The countries that topped the list are Singapore, Zurich, Oslo, Geneva, Copenhagen, Auckland, Taipei City, Helsinki, Bilbao and Dusseldorf. Published by the International Institute for Management Development and the Singapore University of Technology, the global index is the first of its kind that focuses on “how citizens perceive the scope and impact of efforts to make their cities ‘smart,’ balancing ‘economic and technological aspects’ with ‘humane dimensions.’”

The Smart City Index (SCI) was based on five categories: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities, and governance. Nothing about IQ there. So, if you read the magazine article and share it without analyzing the article, you will end up concluding that the Philippines is a country of stupid people and “in fact” Manila was lowest in the world’s smartest cities. The spinner of news clearly was equating IQ and lowest in the world’s smartest cities. Ergo, the Philippines is the land of bobo. The amazing effort to change the narrative of IQ and smart cities is manipulative and no one among the guardians of false news or misinformation took note. We accepted we have low IQ and we are not a smart city. Why?

Manila performed below average of SCI in mobility, due to current traffic conditions and governance, with corruption being an issue. The IMD Smart City Index 2019 used the following methodology: “The first edition of the SCI ranks 102 cities worldwide by capturing the perceptions of a randomly chosen 120 residents in each city.” The SCI was structured by “using more than 12,000 surveys. Each survey has 40 questions. The bulk of the questions, 36, are divided evenly between two factors: structures, that capture the existing infrastructure of the cities, and technologies that describes the technological provisions and services available to the inhabitants. In addition, there are three questions assessing attitudes towards the use of personal data, face recognition and overall trust towards local authorities. The remaining question summarizes the perceived priority areas out of 15 possible alternatives. The SCI is evaluated based on the 36 questions related to the two factors. Each factor is evaluated over five key areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities for work and school, and governance. On the ‘structures’ factor, respondents were asked to choose one out of four options: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree. On the ‘technology’ factor, in addition to the previous four, respondents can also choose ‘do not know’ or ‘technology not available in my city’ for a total of six options.” Clearly, there was nothing on IQ, as reported by a local magazine.

A “smart city is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. The overarching aim of a smart city is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology.”

Clearly, the IMD study showed the importance of citizens’ needs in policymaking. Having a community-based monitoring system is necessary to plan things and develop road maps in order to put together land use plans as well as urban renewal projects. Having a periodic community-based feedback monitoring is essential in building a shared vision and mission. Raising the bar is a commitment to the future and the next generation.

Oh well, “esquire” may denote nobility and high status, while the Philippines is a work in progress by Filipinos who love this nation. The landed gentry sees achievement where they want to. We feel it because we live it.


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