Bernardo M. Villegas
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Family-Friendly Practices in Urban Living (Part 3)

          The advantage of urban living is that families can be more physically connected with one another.  Physical distances are closer and there can be more personal contact with relatives and friends.  At the same time, however, social media can also connect people based on talents and skills.  Shared Mission 9 pursues this goal of connecting people with others having the same purpose by creating a platform that combines Facebook, Linkedin and Job Street, putting together people and enterprises based on purpose and desired impact.

         Shared Mission 10 addresses the seemingly intractable problem of traffic congestion.  Their solution is the construction of more elevated walkways which will encourage walking.  These walkways will be air-conditioned, making walking a more pleasurable and plausible option for getting from Point A to Point B.  This solution is especially relevant to condominium dwellings that are within walking distance to shopping centers, schools, churches, sports facilities, parks and other public amenities.

         A large part of the family budget of households residing in urban dwellings is electricity consumption.  Shared Mission 11 aims at more economical energy consumption through the internet of things at home.  This group proposes the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to track energy and resource consumption, which will hopefully lead to a more judicious use of energy.  Expanding this vision, the group also foresee smart homes that are able to cap consumption of electricity at a certain point, enabling them to operate within budget constraints, much a like a mobile data cap.

         Addressing the important task of family budgeting, Shared Mission 12 aims at improved home spending through an app that tracks real-time usage.  The group proposes an app that takes the place of the power saver in one’s laptop.  This app automatically manages spending in the home by capturing the data on spending and usage.  This information will not only improve the way families allocate their budgets but will also be a tool for market research that can lead to more efficient use of resources.

         Shared Mission 13 has to do with improving the productivity of the time available to the household while at the same time increasing the hours spent at home through community-curated commercial opportunities.  This group feels that the “live, work, play” approach of fully integrated townships can be greatly enhanced if nearby goods and services were curated for the benefit of the communities they are serving.  This practice can also reduce commuting time of the members of the household.  For instance, a townhouse or dormitory whose tenants are primarily students should have a study area and convenience store nearby so that people do not have to go far to get what they need.

         Finally, Shared Mission 14 zeroed in on the food budget which can account for about 20 percent of household expenditures.  The solution is a carinderia collective which connects a carinderia or local food store to workers within the township.  A weekly posting of menu and delivery services can complement this solution.

          To these proposed family-friendly solutions to urban living, we can add what a contributing editor to the Financial Times suggested in an article she wrote last September 26, 2017.  Ms. Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote about how family-focused technology can nurture an advanced economy too.  Since the urban areas we are describing in this article can already be considered at the same level as cities in developed countries like the U.S., the ideas of Ms. Slaughter are not farfetched.  Increasingly in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the Philippines, it is difficult to get domestic helpers and caregivers.   It is time for us to consider “famtech”, that is, technology that makes it easier for us to support and care for one another in whatever groups we choose to call our families.  The first example cited is software that allows caregivers to keep track of what is happening at day care and elder-care programs.  There is “HiMama” which allows a young mother to check in on her son during the day and to know what to expect when she or her husband picks him up.  Developers are already harnessing technology to enhance family outreach and support connections between home and school.  Parents can be connected to information about story time at their local library through geographically targeted text messaging programs.  Video messaging programs give young children a chance to send their parents a short video clip about a silly song they learned at lunch time.

         Another example of famtech is the use of robots for cleaning chores at home.  I know for a fact that young couples in Manila are already having recourse to this technology in the absence of household help.  There are many home appliances equipped with androids that can go beyond the usual coffee making machines.  In a visit to the Samsung Innovation Center in Seoul some years back, I was shown some automatic cooking devices that already respond to the human voice.  I don’t think they were joking when they told me that one can whisper to one of these devices equipped with androids “Adobo” and the dish will automatically come out.  Another routine household task that is already being automated is grocery shopping.  Urban dwellers in the Philippines should be on the lookout for these family-focused technologies in their trips to countries that are suffering from labor shortages like Japan and South Korea so that they can already be one step ahead of other families in the Philippines in using technologies to make urban living more family-friendly.  As Ms. Slaughter wrote in her column, “the ultimate incubators of human talent are the families.”  Let me add, the ultimate cause of happiness for many Filipinos is an intact and united family whose members are able to maximize the time they spend with one another.  For comments, my email address is