Integrated Urban Network: Initiatives to Foster Transparency, Collectivity and Collaboration
tampatra @ stock.adobe.com
The scenario Integrated Urban Network sheds light on a series of current urban issues that can be tackled with the help of emerging technologies, fostering transparency and participation for more holistic solutions.
A major challenge is the physical integration of the localities that compose urban centers. For localities, we consider basic infrastructures such as housing, transportation, and the way the expansion of these localities will create difficulties for future planning. In South American big metropolises, such as São Paulo and Lima, due to a polarized dynamism between wealth and poverty —where the wealthy normally live in gated communities and the poor are confined to marginalized areas—, there is an important decline in activities taking place in their urban centers while peripheries are spreading substantially.
The complexity of urban development is deeply rooted in how the economy is intertwined between actors. The configuration of the many typologies within urban environments often collides with strategic and physical planning, mainly because the approaches applied to solve problems vary from one city to another according to their characteristics and needs. According to Jordi Borja (2001), a “metropolitan space is a perfect illustration of complexity..., a space of variable geometry; we do not know where it starts and where it ends, and even less, how it will be in 10 to 20 years. The territory is an outcome of an action, an outcome of a strategy.” The main question we should ask is how to integrate urban infrastructure to enable better coordination, but also take into account the considerations and arrangements needed to deliver the best tools and practices depending on specific needs.
Examples in East Asia such as Tokyo and Jakarta have notably shifted their conventions from large-scale production to increase their local cooperation, an effort to soften the impacts of labor-intensive activities, and to integrate marginalized units into more inclusive urban dynamics. This change in behavior and management introduced great opportunities in finance and infrastructure, forcing big industries to become the gateways of their nations in driving towards modernization and integration between the scattered units of the production network.
The continuing growth of communication between cities and their surroundings can take place with the help of some technological tools. Platforms such as an Integrated Operations Center which reunites all data gathered by scattered sensors and cameras, enables managers to follow changes in traffic and logistics, as well as, the rule of law and security through a Real-time CCTV System as seen in the case of Belgium as well as Mendonza, in Argentina.
Supported by machine learning algorithms, these monitoring platforms can also offer insights and visualizations that are helpful for both planning and validating new strategies, as seen in the case of Las Vegas in 2017. In addition, these same tools could soon be used to assess cost-risk in construction as suggested by recent research published on the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business Insight, which reviews the possibility of using AI for risk assessment methods in construction projects.
Through 3D Modelling tools, managers can assess a “digital twin” version of a city, such as is the case of Singapore. By combining big data, and solutions based on the internet of things, cloud computing, and virtual reality, the city-state of Singapore can maintain a continuous laboratory for urban planning that enables agencies to act more thoughtfully when risks are flagged during a simulation. By making these tools public through Crowd Platforms, governments invite civilians to collaborate and make decisions more collectively. This has been already observed in European cities such as Hamburg and Barcelona, as well as Recife in Brazil.
In order to make politics and urban governance more democratic, these technologies and platforms must be accessible, informative, and transparent, especially in an emergency, when an Emergency Citizen Responder tool could make a big difference in terms of casualties and damage to urban structures. During the Covid-19 crisis, the Wolf Administration in the US used a wireless emergency alert system that sends geographically targeted text messages on smartphones, alerting people of imminent threats related to their area. Likewise, the solution eVigilo created by an Israeli firm has been used both locally and in South American countries such as Chile to alert citizens to natural or human-made disasters.
It is crucial to ponder the bonus and the onus of having such pervasive monitoring systems. In Western democracies such as European nations, privacy issues may arise as a latent dilemma between efficiency and human rights. On the other hand, examples in Asia, as is the case of Korea, there is a public expectation that these implementations will reduce privacy, but the country is “willing to put off the hard questions to take the early lead and set standards," as stated by Anthony Townsend, a research director at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto.
Public administrations need to weigh the ability to improve governance through technology without ignoring the core ideals and morals that run a nation. Initiatives such as the General Data Protection Regulation intend to tackle this issue and find a middle ground that could both modernize governance and still protect citizens.
The use and application of technological tools have observed effects on the economy and welfare. Looking into the near future, there is a consensus that agglomeration economies, associated labor, and population attraction to megacities inevitably leads to the construction of immense urban configurations. This imposes challenges for public services and fiscal policies, in which emerging technologies can have the ability to enhance accountability and enable better coordination for existing megacities and the ones that will come after.