According to UN-Habitat, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is one of the most urbanized areas in the world, with more than 70 % of the population living in urban areas. Urban expansion in the region has been fuelled by both internal migration and the influx of expatriate workers attracted by the region’s economic prosperity and employment opportunities.
So, it is very crucial for GCC states to manage this urban growth in a smart and sustainable manner to prevent unplanned development. If well managed, a city can become an attraction for citizens, visitors, tourists, investors etc. Otherwise, it can constitute an urbanization crisis that causes problems for municipalities and authorities and can even lead to unrest and demonstrations by residents demanding better services, infrastructure and quality of life.
It is worth mentioning that there are many initiatives across the region to establish smart cities and the trend is likely to continue, given the rapid economic growth. For example Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 sets key targets for the emirate’s development over the next 25 years, with a central focus on investment, urban development with green building codes. In Dubai too, there are many smart cities.
All GCC countries have tremendous potential to be role models when it comes to smart cities. They have relatively young populations, with governments that are interested in leaving a mark and becoming role models to the world. If well planned, smart cities can ensure that their development is maintained well past the age of oil and natural gas.