By 2030, 70 percent of the world’s population will be concentrated in cities. Today, we are seeing large scale rural to urban migration with an estimated of 370,000 people forecasted to migrate daily between 2015 and 2020. The massive growth of urban populations has brought about a series of managerial challenges in both the public and private sectors from resource limitations to the constant need to adapt to consumer demands.

To be truly Smart, cities must integrate and use ICT that is citizen centric to improve the quality of life, enable more positive economic outlook and ensure greater economic resilience. Dr Renato De Castro shares the three must-know predictions to be brought about by Smart Cities:

1. Rise of Artificial Intelligence to combat security risks
Deep understanding and analysis of data is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for governments and businesses to leverage.
Possible issues such as high crime rates and the threat of terrorism are just a few things that cities around the world must address. The marriage of technology to security potentially can alleviate and help manage these issues. Cities can consider adopting state-of-the-art high-definition surveillance systems across information networks like social media where AI is able to process a large amount of data. This not only shortens the required response time in threatening situations but can also predict crimes. Controversies of monitoring and privacy aside, AI has the potential to improve the safety and security of smart cities for the betterment of its citizens.
2. Hypercities and their consequences
According to the United Nations, a hypercity refers to massive sprawling conurbations of more than 20 million people. Tokyo became the first hypercity in the mid-1960s when it crossed the threshold1. By 2020, there will be more hyper-cities to boot such as Mumbai, Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New York, Dhaka, Jakarta and Lagos.
The rise in the number of hypercities is likely to lead to the development of district confederations as a result of steep inter-city competition. Even today, large cities are already fighting for investments and talents to increase competitiveness. This emerging trend among big cities is likely to become even more pronounced in the near future. In the long run, cities will play a more significant role in their own governance in response to the push to better develop and enhance its attractiveness. This will lead to the development of district confederations, where each district has their own rules, regulations, and pilot projects.
3. The Fourth Industrial Revolution and its resulting economies
The fourth industrial revolution seeks to be the most disruptive one yet, where transformation can be classified into four unique and dramatically different dimensions, they are:
  • The Creative Economy. As the name suggests, is the use of creativity to value-add to the local economy. The blossoming of the creative class has been attributed by Richard Florida to the increasing prosperity of prosperous high-tech clusters such as Silicon Valley in California, Austin Technology Cluster in Texas and East London Tech City.
  • The Sharing Economy. The rise of services such Airbnb and Uber is shocking the traditional marketplace and will affect the global production and distribution chain and promote the rise of new business and innovation models, specifically one that caters to the idea of “access over ownership”
  • The Circular Economy. An economy whereby there is no wastage, which is obtained through consciously reusing resources to ensure long-term sustainability of our environment. This is in stark contrast to our current linear production models, that transforms raw materials into use, then eventually waste.
  • Co-Creation. New start-ups are welcoming collaboration with all stakeholders; employees, suppliers, customers and even competitors. This concept can be developed to encompass the co-creation of citizens with public management to raise the quality of life.
These major changes can be characterised by newfangled perspectives about the implications of time and space due to technology bridging physical, digital and biological domains.
In the face of the impending change, one has to be mindful that it is mindsets and perspectives that will steer the movement towards smarter cities and smarter citizens. Technology is just a vessel for change. The embracement of technology has to be thorough, inclusive and complete on all levels for the successful implementation of Smart City projects.
For more insights, join Dr. Renato De Castro, International Advisor, World e-Governments Organisation of Cities & Local Governments (WeGO) at the CommunicAsia2017 Summit on Conference Day 2, 24 May 2017 speaking on the topic ‘City SMARTup: New Tools to Build Wiser and More Competitive Cities’.
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