Cities in a Time of Global Emergencies

Cities in a time of global emergencies 4

adopted at national level. In the cities that were particularly hurt by the pandemic (e.g. Mumbai), where much was left to local initiatives – for example, facing the scarcity of personal protective equipment, oxygen and vaccines – being a smart city did not help much. In others, where a strong technological culture existed, with high penetration rates for smart phones and data sharing (e.g. Tokyo or Tel Aviv), tracking applications made a significant difference. Technology and good infrastructure also made it relatively easy to accompany lockdown policies with enhanced abilities to work from home (e.g. in Melbourne). Smart cities address climate and health resilience as one single endeavor. The availability of smart solutions to face COVID-19 emergencies also raised new initiatives and efforts to address climate-related emergencies. The emergence of “resilience” as a priority for smart cities encouraged a simultaneous and convergent treatment of both environmental and health issues. This interdependence also became clearer to citizens and decision-makers. Air quality, in particular, grew in importance among the concerns of citizens, not just as a key ingredient of their quality of life, but as a necessary condition for their good health. Megalopolises in Asia (Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo) were particularly affected by this trend. Smart cities can be places of greater disparities. A new concern (also aggravated by COVID-19) has emerged among a majority of the cities covered in this volume, which can be summarized as follows: are the policies and strategies adopted to make our cities smarter (and to address environmental and health emergencies) reducing or broadening existing disparities among citizens? Some of the case studies presented here offer a very honest (and pessimistic) assessment in this regard. In Santiago, as well as in Mumbai and Manila, inequalities have increased, and solidarity mechanisms weakened. Gated communities, in particular, show how smart cities can illustrate strong disparities vis-à-vis safety, for example. Another concern is that of a potential “gender bias” in the ways in which COVID-19 has affected urban communities, as women have often been under greater pressure to give up their professional careers as the burden of other tasks increased due to the crisis. This is a phenomenon that will deserve critical attention in the years to come, both from the point of view of wage disparities, but also of career opportunities. Economic dimensions are coming to the fore. By and large, all the cities covered in this volume pay particular importance to the economic dimensions of building and governing a smart city. All seem to have identified clear advantages in fostering private-public partnerships (PPPs) (Shanghai, Madinah, Manila, Kigali, Tokyo). As already underlined in the 2021 edition of the IMD-SUTD Smart City Index, the cost of affordable housing remains the number one concern in the cities covered, as globally. This is a dimension that pervades many other aspects of smart cities: if affordable housing can only be found at a significant distance from workplaces, mobility patterns (and air quality) will be affected, for example. Lockdown measures and teleworking policies adopted during COVID-19 highlighted the interdependence of such dimensions. To some extent such measures acted as pathfinders to possible

Made with FlippingBook. PDF to flipbook with ease