Smartness and Urbanity

Saturday, February 13, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Marriott Balcony A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Victor Vergara, World Bank, Washington, DC
According to the 2014 World Urbanization prospectus: “over half of the world’s population (54 per cent) now lives in urban areas, up from 30 per cent in 1950. The coming decades will bring further profound changes to the size and spatial distribution of the global population such that the world’s population in 2050 is projected to be 66 per cent urban. The global urban population is projected to grow by 2.5 billion urban dwellers between 2014 and 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. Trends in urbanization are integrally linked to sustainable development. With good planning and governance [ie smart growth] , the increasing concentration of people in urban settlements can facilitate economic and social development, while also offering opportunities to mitigate the adverse impact of consumption and production on the environment. However, rapid and unplanned urban growth [ie. business as usual] threatens sustainable development when the necessary infrastructure is not developed or when policies are not implemented to protect the environment and ensure that the benefits of city life are equitably shared”.

863 million people live in slums  about 1/3 of all urban dwellers in the planet.   While we discuss in the 2016 AAAS session whether or not smart cities are utopia  or a data deluge – over the next 90 minutes -  approximately 4,800 persons will be added to the slums in the world.  Whether one sees smart cities as a challenge  to manage or an unreachable dream depends where one lives and how we define smart cities. The fact that over the next 35 years humanity will need to figure out how to build cities for the same amount of persons it has taken 10,000 years requires us to be smart – or the be doomed.  Just as the Green Revolution spared malthusian prediction of chromic global famine we need to have a brown revolution to accommodate the vast new urban population. I will  propose that Smart Cities are neither Utopic or unmanageable Data Deluges, rather, smart cities will be defined as a broad array of solutions – a process-  that can conceived and applied in a differentiated way to make it possible for the world to urbanize in a sustainable manner. With the anticipation in 2016 of the  vicennial  United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development….as well as the adoption of the UN sustainable Development Goals – especially goal number 11 on urban development  -  it is opportune to think of smart cities in a truly global manner. I will outline a vision of what smart cities approach may look like for the emerging cities and the important role of  impact smart planning, building and managing cities.