APEC 2012 CEO Summit: World Leaders Discuss “Living Cities”

APEC 2012 CEO Summit

No one disputes the reality of rapidly increasing urbanization. More than 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities and that number will grow to 70% by 2050. With this intense pace of urbanization, it isn’t surprising that 70% of the world’s carbon emissions is already generated in cities. Along with the pressing problems generated by rapid city building, however, a host of new technologies have been brought to the table to provide unprecedented innovations and improvements to the quality of our everyday life. Take, for instance, the performance of computer semiconductor technology that has been doubling every 18 months and will continue to improve at the same rate in the foreseeable future. These technology improvements have brought us smart phones and iTablets with more power than million dollar mainframe computers in the 1960s.

The terms “Smart City,” “Intelligent Community” and “Ubiquitous City” are just a few of the many phrases created by consultants, academics and technology providers to describe communities that are effectively blending new technologies with new processes to manage their urban growth and environmental challenges and establish new levels of prosperity and quality of life for their citizens.

The phrase “Living Cities” has been coined by the National Business Center of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Ernst & Young to embrace all of the other terms and represent the next phase of thinking about future opportunities in city evolution. This topic will also be discussed at the Asia Pacific Economic Council’s 2012 CEO Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, from September 7th to 8th.

I have the honor of chairing an impressive panel of leaders who will discuss the topic of Living Cities under the title of Making Cities Fit and Competitive for Business, their People and the Planet. The panel is comprised of Sergey Sobyanin, Mayor of Moscow; Oleg Govorun, Minister of Regional Development of The Russian Federation; José Miguel Castro, CEO of the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima, Peru and Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive, Hong Kong. They will discuss their governments’ priority initiatives as they prepare to meet new demands and opportunities in the coming decade and beyond. I look forward to engaging in a lively, informative discussion about the meaning of Living Cities today with these cutting edge leaders and will write about our panel in a follow-up article in this newspaper.

To set the stage for our panel discussion, I am particularly interested in the fact that the panelists represent such a diversity of experiences, each with geographically specific challenges and opportunities. At the same time, these challenges and their solutions may not be completely unique to each city; in different ways, new computer and communications technologies can be used to benefit all Living Cities by creating cities that feature a new calibre of performance in city management and the delivery of city services, as well as new economic, social and environmental opportunities for their citizens, companies and institutions.

The “Smart City/Intelligent Community Movement” has a twenty-five year history with many successes. In the early 90s a number of technology companies created Smart Valley in Silicon Valley to increase their collaboration with the broader community and provide economic and social benefits for their citizens. “Intelligent Island” was an early 90s Singapore initiative that has been superseded by four subsequent multiyear plans, the latest being IN2015, one of the world’s most impressive Intelligent Community strategies covering all aspects of life in Singapore. By 2015, Singapore will have the world’s most advanced city wide communications infrastructure providing the foundation for implementing IN2015. The entire city will become the world’s leading living laboratory for a city of the future in terms of leveraging technology and new processes for a host of economic and social benefits.

These are just a couple of examples of cities at the leading edge of the Living Cities movement. Today, 400 communities apply each year to compete in the New York based Intelligent Community Forum’s annual competition for Intelligent Community of the Year. Previous winners include Stockholm, Singapore, Taiwan, Waterloo and Calgary in Canada and Eindhoven.

Why all the interest in Smart Cities and Intelligent Communities? It is because over the past 25 years, the cities winning the awards have achieved faster rates of growth in their economy, employment, innovation indices and social prosperity than their neighbors or competitors who have not embraced these new opportunities.

The high speed broadband revolution is an important new contributor to success. The new communications infrastructures can have the same impact as the railways and interstate highways when they were introduced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You lost your status and growth if they bypassed your city and you had new opportunities when your city embraced them. Similarly, today, opportunities and growth hinge on a city’s receptiveness toward innovation. For example, Chattanooga, Tennessee was a TOP 7 finalist in the 2011 ICF competition for Intelligent Community of the Year; it was the first city in the US to install a complete fiber communications service offering citizens and businesses a service of one gigabit or one billion bits per second at low cost to all. Within two years, the city had attracted $4 billion of new investment from three large multinational companies including Volkswagen. Chattanooga’s communications infrastructure played a large part in the city’s turnaround.

Managing the continual growth of our cities and revitalizing them with new strategies, processes and technologies is no doubt a challenge. But the strategies and rewards of capitalizing on Smart Cities and Intelligent Communities have been proven over the past twenty-five years. What will the next twenty-five years hold? I look forward to hearing the thoughts of four of the world’s leaders who are wrestling daily to take advantage of the new Living Cities opportunities and reporting on their comments and observations following the APEC 2012 CEO Summit.

This address was also used as the basis of an article published in Russian here.

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