THREE-QUARTERS of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, according to the United Nations. The question of what kind of cities the people of 2050 will find themselves living in was tackled at the recently concluded World Cities Summit (WCS) here.
The general consensus was that a smart city would be one that is green, sustainable and liveable.
The ultimate achievement for a city is to earn unconditional respect from people all over the world, for our people, our city and our country, said Liu Thai Ker, chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), during his closing remarks.
He told delegates that a city, which was in a way the largest piece of industrial design made by man, would be judged on its user-friendliness, functionality and aesthetics.
Over 130 mayors and city leaders, along with representatives of international organisations, researchers and urban planners, attended the four-day summit to discuss strategies on how to develop liveable, more resilient and attractive cities for urban residents worldwide.
They emphasised the need for governments to collaborate more closely with businesses, academia and citizen networks to create more holistic and cost-effective solutions that improve the quality of life.
Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan said during the closing plenary that cities which invest in IT infrastructure, educational and training capacity to raise IT literacy, the adoption of open data and deployment of various intelligent systems could harness public opinions, and promote co-ownership of problems, and co-creation of solutions.
In such instances, the government need not be the sole solution provider, and neither can it, because there is potential for greater creative capacity in the people and private sector in devising solutions to help city residents deal with day-to-day problems, he said.
Some partnerships announced at this year’s WCS have already put that goal into action. One of them was a memorandum of understanding between the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the Energy Market Authority and Panasonic to study the feasibility of establishing a smart-home energy pilot to provide households with more energy choices and solutions.
The year-long study will explore various energy solutions – such as time-of-use pricing where electricity is cheaper during off-peak hours, and home-energy management systems which provide energy usage data to encourage behavioural change – for HDB households in the future.
As electricity demand increases, energy management technologies and solutions are becoming more important than ever, said Junichiro Kitagawa, managing director of Panasonic Asia Pacific. We hope that such synchronised private-public efforts will create a better life and a better world for all.
Transport solutions also featured in the conversations at WCS, with a focus on driverless vehicles.
SMRT International signed an exclusive agreement with technology provider 2getthere on Monday for an introduction of the latter’s driverless transit systems in Singapore.
We are keen to introduce such driverless transportation technology in Singapore where there are manpower challenges, said Goh Eng Kiat, managing director at SMRT International, adding that the company expects to participate in trial rollouts.
He added that the system can complement existing bus services through last-mile connectivity for commuters, and also has the ability to address on-demand transport requirements, while providing an energy-saving and green transportation solution.
Besides motorised transport, CLC is also looking to encourage active mobility. A joint study released by CLC and the US-based Urban Land Institute on Monday identified strategies to promote walking and cycling in tropical cities.
Ten recommendations were provided for active travel, such as ensuring visibility at road junctions by painting cycling lanes and continuous sidewalks that require cars to stop and allow pedestrians and cyclists to continue.
CLC’s executive director Khoo Teng Chye said that besides a change in the urban environment, active mobility required a change in mindset as well. As CEO and chief planner of URA in the 1990s, I was sceptical of whether cycling can be a viable form of transport, because of our hot and humid weather, for example.
But he pointed to cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam that have 80 per cent of their people cycling both in winter and summer to get around.
Many cities are now planning and providing infrastructure for cycling. They have developed much expertise and we should learn from them, rather than reinvent the wheel, said Mr Khoo.
Other recent studies also indicate that the ability to innovate and adjust to changes across the board is the key to a successful city with high quality of life.
A joint CLC-Shell report titled New Lenses on Future Cities released last month cited flexible long-term planning, investing in the future and collaboration between sections of society as some of the crucial conditions cities should have in order to respond promptly to emerging crises.
In particular, the report emphasised the importance of an efficient transport system that goes hand in hand with a compact city design, and raised the Republic as a positive example of a city that took and continues to take decisive steps for its long-term physical development.
The results of another study – PwC’s Cities of Opportunity, which ranks 30 global cities across 10 indicators – also highlighted the need for cities to actively sweat the details on virtually every aspect of urban policy and organisation.
Of the cities ranked in the top 10 overall, nine were ranked in the top 10 as well for at least five indicators.
Singapore finished third overall behind London and New York and was also top for the transportation and infrastructure indicator.
The fourth edition of the WCS was held together with the Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. More than 20,000 participants from 118 countries attended the three co-located events.