By 2050, two-thirds of humanity will live in cities. How do we brace for impact?

Author: 

Carine Umuhumuza

A view of a busy street in Nakuru, Kenya. Photo by: ViktorDobai / CC BY-NC

By 2050, nearly two-thirds of humanity — more than 4 billion people — will live in cities. How should the world’s urban centers brace for impact — and ensure quality of life for the people who call them home?

The answer? We need to make our cities smarter.

Over the past six weeks, we’ve teamed up with partners to tackle these questions through the Smart Cities digital series. We heard from mayors, urban planners and global development professionals who work each day to address the challenges of urban growth in cities around the globe.

Before the series wrapped this week, Devex hosted a Twitter chat with the Smart Cities partners and leading development voices to highlight the most pressing insight and promising ideas to keep the world’s cities work for the people that call them home.

The expert panelists included:

• Dr. Joan Clos, executive director, UN-Habitat and Secretary-General of Habitat III

• Jean-Micheal Huet, partner, Bearing Point

• Ede Ijjasz-Vásquez, senior director, social, urban, rural and resilience global practice, World Bank Group

#SDG11 calls for cities and human settlements to be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. What’s at stake if we don’t meet this goal?

• “Air pollution will continue to increase uncontrollably. It's estimated to have caused 3.7 million premature deaths in 2012” @UNHabitat

• Natural disasters claimed 1.3M lives '92-'12. The #goodnews is that deaths can be prevented  @Ede_WBG

• Poorly managed urbanization is a risk to humanity: social inequality, poverty, insecurity, pollution, climate change @Joanclos

African cities and mayors emerged as key players in the Smart Cities conversation. How are these cities uniquely placed?

• Developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa (55 percent) has the highest number of urban slum dwellers in the world @UNHabitat

• African cities and metropolis can play a role of a territory of creation and experimentation. They are not only catching up but went further, customizing technology to the behavior of their citizens  @Metropolis_org

• Well-planned urbanization in #Africa should become the main driver of economic, social and environmental transformation @Joanclos

What are the biggest debates among Smart Cities experts? Are there issues the community doesn’t see eye-to-eye on?

• Definition and scope of #SmartCities are not clear enough and we see different points of view. We are at the beginning of the story! @BearingPoint

• The main debate is that #SmartCities aren't just a tech. issue or an end in itself, but a tool to improve citizens' quality of life. @Metropolis_org

A shift in modern urbanization will cost cities money. How can cities finance the costs?

• Good urbanization should NOT be approached as a cost, but as an investment. Read @UNHABITAT report  @JoanClos

• Firstly, with the aid of donors but after the stake is to develop a sustainable business model where #smartcities monetize data and services @BearingPoint

Sustainable transit, IOT and eco-cities are just a few Smart Cities trends we highlighted this past month. What smart city trends are you most excited about?

• Citizen engagement enabled by technologies and linked to urban planning is an exciting #SmartCities trend @Ede_WBG

• #DEM aka Digital Ecosystem Management, the platform economy adapted for #SmartCities  @BearingPoint

• @UNHABITAT is using games like Minecraft to make urban planning and design more accessible to youth @JoanClos

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