Smart cities are the population and economic hubs of the future and will vie with each other rather than countries.
Around half the world’s 7 billion population already live in cities – and this number is predicted to shoot past the 60% mark towards two-thirds in the 2030s, according to management consultants McKinsey & Company.
The rise of cities almost becoming their own states will change the world economy, says the firm.
Rapid advances in technology are driving cities forward.
Companies looking at relocation or places for international branches no longer look at national levels, but at the attractiveness of cities.
Competitiveness is between London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai rather than the US, Britain and China.
Each city offers a different package to companies and expats.
The goal of city leaders is to build their economy by attracting businesses that offer well-paid jobs that then bring a wealthy population.
To do this, the city leaders have to work on providing the best services for companies, their staff and families.
These services include efficient public transport, effective healthcare, good education and a wide range of leisure activities.
Technology offers another layer of services – fast broadband, wi-fi hotspots and the opportunity to access social media and online shopping.
But as a city grows bigger, crime worsens, pollution comes from more vehicles and services are overloaded, so planners must constantly upgrade services to make their cities attractive for business.
“The same problems need solving in cities as diverse as Beijing and Boston, as they work on growing and keeping up with technology and the expectations of their citizens and businesses,” said Ruthbea Clarke, research director of Smart Cities Strategies at IDC Government Insights.
Blueprint for progress
“Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, for instance, is making sure government services are accessible, quick and efficient.”
Indeed, Dubai wants to be the world’s smartest city within three years.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, said: “Our aim is for Dubai is to make a better life for everyone – every mother, child, employee and investor. We are working to make our city clean, efficient and technologically advanced for everyone.”
The blueprint includes smart technology to harness solar power, better controls to for water and power consumption and improved traffic management to reduce emissions and rush-hour snarl-ups.
“The more services and data that are integrated, the better our systems become as they allow us to do more with better efficiency,” said a United Arab Emirates government spokesman.
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