The boom of ‘megacities’

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

By Jesmina García and Saúl Castelar

“Megacities” is the current name for urban conglomerates with over 10 million inhabitants. Today, there are 20 metropolis around the globe that fit the criteria for this denomination; however, calculations done for the near future show that the list will grow considerably.

According to the UN, over 60% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. We’re talking of 5 billion people that will drive urban development, medium-sized cities that will surpass 5 million inhabitants, and a dozen or more of these 20 megacities going over the 20 million people mark. These estimations also show which 600 cities will be the planet’s biggest.

Facing this perspective, the authorities are obligated to develop strategies and take actions to insure the well-being of the population groups; in the end, the main motivation for migrations is precisely that – finding a better quality of life. This situation generates challenges, such as making the provision of services more efficient, and increasing the job, social and educational opportunities to satisfy the new needs of the people.

Employing new models based on technologies that promote sustainability and the improvement of services has been the solution that these big cities have been adopting, particularly in the realm of critical services such as public transportation, security, infrastructure, e-government and the development of smart power grids.

However, the most balanced concept of what smart cities are doesn’t just include the use of technology, but also the actions of a participative society, one that acts on its own accord to integrate the initiatives aimed to improve quality of life, an efficient management of resources and sustainability.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

Our planet is facing the great challenge of turning its cities into sustainable and efficient spaces. Technology is a fundamental ally to achieve this. The development of “urban intelligence” is an imperative.

Let’s consider one of the main challenges cities are facing now: mobility. According to figures from the World Bank, 90% of the population growth in developing countries is happening in cities, and this makes it indispensable to optimize different processes so that the increase in users won’t result in greater chaos. This new population mass will make new investments in infrastructure necessary, but they won’t be enough to keep order. At the same time, it’s necessary for citizens to employ the resources available in the most efficient way. It’s the task of government officials to design and implement plans and strategies to make this happen. How? By steering city management towards smart city models, adding new technologies to modernize the metropolis and allow the creation of more livable spaces where public transportation systems are a priority; spaces where these systems run on renewable energies, and resources are allocated to improve traffic control systems and keeping passengers informed at all times, among other things.

Megacities are an inescapable reality. The need to provide urban services in an optimized way makes technology a vital tool to reach this objective.

Besides optimizing the provision of services, it will be absolutely necessary to offer personalized experiences to each inhabitant of the city. The capacity of these solutions in terms of predicting and anticipating the needs of users will be greater every day. The division between the key elements of a livable city (mobility, infrastructure, energy and the environment) will be less and less clear, and they will be managed in a more integrated way, placing the inhabitant of the city at the heart of every decision taken. This will be acknowledged as the key to reach efficiency and sustainability. As Harvard Professor Edward Glaesar told the Financial Times, if the management of these urban centers is positive, they will become “the most creative, dynamic and interesting places on Earth.”

Jesmina García is the Director of Smartmatic’s Smart Cities business unit

Saúl Castelar is a Product Manager of Smartmatic’s Smart Cities business unit

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