As cities around the globe strive to adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing world, they face the imperative of urban reinvention. Nine key trends are shaping the transformation of cities, enabling them to become future-ready and responsive to the needs of their inhabitants and other stakeholders.
- Design infrastructure that is fit for future purpose
Cities are focusing on designing infrastructure that aligns with their future needs. With increased access to funds, they are investing in roads, bridges, ports, buildings, broadband capabilities, and more. However, the scope of infrastructure remodeling extends beyond the traditional. Cities are embracing novel approaches to create future-ready infrastructure that minimizes carbon emissions, removes community barriers, and supports emerging business practices in areas like e-commerce, logistics, and supply chains.
- Make sustainability sustainable
Sustainability has become a top priority for cities. While government funding provides initial support, cities are seeking sustainable business and financing models to ensure ongoing progress. Innovative approaches, sometimes referred to as “catalytic financing,” are being employed. One example is electric vehicle (EV) charging networks that generate ongoing fees for local governments. Cities are also leveraging technology and adopting business models that drive positive environmental and social results, including renewable energy generation, circular economy initiatives, and smart resource management.
- Innovate through ecosystems
Cities are expanding their ecosystems by fostering partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders. They are collaborating with private companies, financial institutions, technology firms, governments, non-profit organizations, academia, and community groups. By engaging with true partners, cities can leverage their expertise, innovative business models, and commercial acumen to achieve their long-term plans cost effectively.
- Ensure citizen buy-in and trust
Citizen trust is paramount for future-ready cities. To foster trust, cities are staying sensitive to the needs of their residents. They are actively involving residents in decision-making processes and ensuring ongoing communication. In addition, cities are creating new leadership roles, such as chief citizen officers, to enhance citizen engagement and build more personalized and secure digital experiences.
- Harness digital convergence
Future-ready cities embrace a widening tech stack, incorporating AI, cloud computing, blockchain, digital twins, drones, and electric vehicles. The true value of these technologies emerges when cities combine them to reimagine how they operate. For instance, digital twins integrated with AI and metaverse applications enable better visualization of urban plans, while real-time monitoring and IoT facilitate swift problem-solving. It is important for cities to identify digital use cases that generate the highest return on investment while mitigating technical and privacy risks and bridging the digital divide.
- Unlock the full power of data
Future-ready cities draw insights from diverse data sources, including biometric, behavioral, social media, supply chain, environmental, and geospatial data. They go beyond data collection and integration to leverage advanced analytics for real-time, evidence-based decision-making, trend prediction, and simulation. Data-driven cities unify and modernize their data platforms, providing urban managers, businesses, and citizens with a single source of truth.
- Build resilience and agility
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for cities to build resilience and agility. Cities are now preparing for future exogenous shocks, such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, geopolitical events, and other disruptions. Upgrading systems, processes, and skills is vital to detect, minimize, and respond to risks effectively.
- Rethink mobility around people
Cities are revolutionizing mobility by adopting a people-centric approach, ensuring accessibility for all citizens. They integrate micro mobility and autonomous vehicles, utilize solutions like open-loop payments and real-time apps for seamless travel, manage the transition to electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, and leverage AI, IoT, 5G, and digital twins to optimize transportation operations.
- Invest smartly in the future
Cities are increasing their investments in various urban domains, fueled by enhanced funding opportunities. They are strategically planning the allocation of funds and prioritizing investments in digital and data solutions for the next five years, while also evaluating the return on investment and payback period of previous investments. The funding for these initiatives comes from a combination of government, philanthropic, and other sources.