By 2050, 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas bringing consequences and challenges associated with the growth to governments and planners.
Today, 55 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities with projections that Africa and Asia will account for 90 per cent of this growth in two decades.
With this knowledge, it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the trends urbanization brings for sustainable development.
According to Chen Zhijun, Huawei’s Vice President for Enterprise Business Group of Southern Africa Region, “It is also a chance to promote best practices, new ideas and partnerships between cities and different stakeholders.”
A UN report released in May also projected that Africa and Asia together will account for 86 per cent of growth in the world’s urban population over the next 4 decades.
“As the human population gradually shifts from rural to urban areas, this unprecedented increase has already posed new challenges in terms of jobs, housing, and transportation. Cities are finding it increasingly complex to effectively manage themselves and provide good services to citizens at the same time,” adds Zhijun.
He says that with the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the “Smart City” concept is emerging as a critical phenomenon in urban development.
Zhijun says, “Using various ICT or innovative solutions, the Smart City integrates the city’s constituent systems and services to enhance the efficiency of resource allocation and utilization, optimizing urban management and services and improving the quality of life of citizens.”
He adds that Smart Cities can be likened to a living organism with a “nervous system” (the network and sensors), connecting its “brain” (the control centre) with “limbs and organs” (departments and institutions), enhancing the city’s management and services.
In this process, he says, ICT solutions can play a critical role in connecting the digital and physical worlds across city administration, public services, and industries.
“Using new ICT including cloud computing, Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), these solutions drive unified coordination, cross-sector collaboration, and intelligent analysis for effective management of city services.”
Zhijun says that we must keep enhancing the ICT infrastructure so that ICT services and applications can be more available, accessible and affordable to every ordinary citizen, and that these applications can enable the improvement of livelihoods, ease of doing business, and increase productivity.
He says that cities can become smarter by first understanding that cities are giant systems that interact across systems becoming a “system of systems”.
“It requires coordination across departments through the overall strategy and design, including setting goals, priorities, and implementation paths. This is essential rather than optional to ensure the system is designed in ways that are user-friendly, with appropriate technologies, and can be maintained, integrated with other systems and upgraded over time to be sustainable,” Zhijun adds.
Secondly, he says, it is taking a two-step approach starting with Public Safety and then moving to other aspects of the Smart City. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety and security together with food and water are basic needs for all human beings.
“For a country and its cells, “Cities”, there is also a Maslow-like hierarchy of digital needs. Ensuring security is a basic requirement for a country or a city. It lays a solid foundation for a competitive nation and a dynamic city.”
Zhijun challenges that building Sustainable and Resilient Cities, the theme for World Cities Day 2018, is a call to action to rethink how cities may become better places to protect and enhance people’s lives, leaving no one behind.
“By making cities safer and smarter, ICT actually increases their attractiveness.”
“A lesson from the development of China, a country that fast forward 40 years and has become the world’s second largest economy from one of the poorest, is that problems can be solved in the process of development,” Zhijun says.
He concludes that with the help of technologies and innovations, common problems facing cities such as traffic congestion, high unemployment, crime, and environmental degradation by making cities safer and smarter can be solved.