Urbanisation challenges and new technologies opportunities

More than 50 percent of people worldwide already live in cities, and the World Health Organization predicts that this proportion will continue to increase. 

Consider:

  • Level of urbanisation 1800 – 2%, 1950 – 30%, 2000 – 47% (percentage of the world’s population that was urban)
  • An estimated two of every three people will be living in a city by 2050
  • The urban population rises around almost 180,000 people each day
  • Half of the population growth will take place in 9 countries. From 2017 to 2050 the following countries will be the ones that will contribute the most population growth: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia 

According to the World Bank, city living is much more beneficial for citizens as it’s easier to provide services when people live closer together. However, with all opportunities opened to new urban dweller, urbanisation brings various challenges: high population density, overcrowding, traffic congestion, inadequate infrastructure, air pollution, high demand of public transport and many more.

And these all are challenges which are better to prevent rather than to solve later. For example, London is willing to spend on infrastructure improvements around £1.3 Trillion over the next 40 years according to the new “London Infrastructure Plan 2050”. Could we have spent less if we prepared the city infrastructure for growth in advance?

But probably the most striking phenomenon of our time is unplanned urbanisation. The city Lagos in Nigeria, currently stands as the 10th largest urban area in the world and is on the cusp of becoming a primary coastal megalopolis. Just in 2 decades the city has grown from 200,000 people to nearly 20 million. According to new researches Lagos can become the world’s largest metropolis, home to 85 or 100 million people in 2100. Already today the city’s streets are choked with traffic, its air is full of fumes, and its main dump covers 40 hectares and receives 10,000 metric tons of waste a day (the NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change (LCLUC) Program).

A lot of of the newborn cities are growing exponentially, and urban planning steps should been undertaken earlier.  It is obvious that it impossible to face all these urbanisation challenges manually. As the Internet is becoming available in developing countries, the role of modern technologies becomes increasingly salient in this respect: Internet of Things, Sensors technologies, Artificial Intelligence, footfall counters, big data analysis and visualisation, Machine Learning algorithms should  help to build sustainable and environmentally friendly urban spatial policies for the current and future generations.

Technologies will help to overcome challenges in a complex and personalised world. As Vanessa Watson, professor of city planning at Cape Town University says “… cities must learn that they cannot become sustainable by building roads. They must embrace public transport and not cars. They must find their own model and not try to reproduce European cities, which were built on vast capital and centuries of slow growth. If not, there is a bleak future of growing inequality and massive environmental damage.” (“The 100 million city: is 21st century urbanisation out of control?”, The Guardian, 19.03.2018).