From time immemorial densely populated areas have provided their inhabitants with advantages over smaller, isolated settlements. By bringing people from different walks of life together, cities have been central to the spread of commerce and, perhaps more importantly, ideas.
But for cities to thrive, the benefits they offer their denizens must outweigh their drawbacks. In other terms, the extent to which they cater to the needs of their inhabitants determines their success.
In turn, their growth and development can be instrumental to the fate of entire countries or regions.
Today, cities are more important than perhaps at any time in human history. According to the World Bank, city dwellers outnumbered rural inhabitants for the first time in 2008, reaching 54% of the global population in 2015. With this rise to prominence, there has been mounting pressure on city officials to tackle the problems associated with urban life, whether it’s traffic, pollution or crime.
An increasing number of cities have been turning to digital technology to help achieve this, the goal being to develop sustainable cities where people enjoy a high quality of both life and work.
This, in essence, is the definition of a smart city – an urban space that strives to constantly innovate and engage citizens in a collective project.
Given the importance developing sustainable urban models, France Stratégie has been holding a series of monthly workshops to explore all aspects of smart cities. This has included looking at the fundamental nature of smart cities; their growth and the related challenges; the role of digital technology in generating individual and collective intelligence; smart city governance and an active citizenry; the cyber risks and privacy issues associated with the proliferation of ITCs (Information and Communications Technologies); the development of connected objects – i.e. the Internet of Things – in smart cities; and the cost of investing in and financing smart city projects.
For the sixth workshop, France Stratégie will be looking at several initiatives officials abroad are undertaking to make their cities smart. Pierre-Jean Coulon, president, the Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN), European Economic and Social Committee, will look at what it takes for cities to become smart and how projects can be shaped to reflect the needs of citizens.
Pierre-Emmanuel Noël, senior banker, European Investment Bank (EIB), for his part will discuss the joint initiative by the bank Belfius and the EIB to finance smart city initiatives in three regions in Belgium. The projects will involve renewable energy, sustainable mobility, urban regeneration and the circular economy.
Lastly, Antoine Mougenot, general director, AREP South Asia-Vietnam, will explore some of the smart cities emerging in Asia and the challenges they face. In particular, AREP’s experience in Hanoi, Bangkok, Colombo, Jakarta, Wuhan and Chengdu illustrates how digital technology can form the basis for efficient and ingenious services in rapidly growing cities and how urban planning is crucial for developing smart cities in Asia.