Smart Cities of the Future: Social Innovation Needed

By Sangeeta Haindl

sangeetahaindlCurrently, more than half the world’s population now lives in cities, a percentage that is expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2030. Today, cities are already responsible for over 70% of global CO2 emissions, which means that meeting the planet’s challenges of increasing urban populations needs smart thinking and smart solutions. One answer is to build entirely new “smart” cities, where the foundations are not just based on bricks and mortar, but on the latest in social innovation, technology and construction. Does that sounds a little sci-fi?  Well, it is happening now on a spare square mile of desert near Abu Dhabi international airport and is due to be completed in 2025. Welcome to Masdar City.

A city like no other on earth, it will be raised metres above a concrete base to maximize its exposure to cooling winds. Petrol-fueled cars will be banned; only self-driving electric cars will travel through specially built tunnels. Low-energy appliances and insulation mean this region will use only a quarter of the energy of a traditional city of its size (an expected 40,000 residents and 50,000 commuters), almost all of which will be provided by a solar farm positioned outside the city limits.

This project is not without critics. Some believe that Masdar is not practical and is an extreme prestige project that will not work in conventional economical terms. The build for Masdar has been reported as $22bn (£14bn); a city of the future does not come cheap. Plus, many experts believe that the majority of the cities that will be our cities of the future are already here because cities evolve over time. There’s also the idea that the social innovation and technology of a brand new city may start as cutting edge, but could become dated even before completion. Critics of Masdar City agree that a new approach is needed, but that it is probably more about adaptation to reality.

Let’s head back to Masdar City: it’s not just a city that is being created and constructed, it’s also being built with a set of values and a ‘green’ manifesto.  Commerce promises to be a whole new experience as retailers will provide goods and services in a way that fits the ethos of the city to ensure that shopping is sustainable.

An ‘Economic Zone’ is also in the planning, a ‘Zone’ that will be regulated differently by offering zero per cent import tariffs; zero per cent taxes on companies and individuals; 100% foreign ownership; no currency restrictions; a safe, friendly working environment; a high quality of life and crucially, the opportunity to maximise corporate social responsibility objectives! Plus, a strong IP protection framework, which would be ‘Mecca’ for inventors and entrepreneurs. The question now is, are you convinced enough to want to move there?

Sangeeta Haindl: I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics – Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry. I believe in the power of serendipity for business. Do e-mail me if you would like to know more and what this means. I also am a Twitter lover and believe that social media lets people into our lives. I would also describe myself as a Spiritual Entrepreneur, Conscious Explorer and Futurist. I enjoy helping others, paying it forward and being a mum.

Published under INDIACSR-3BL Media Partnership.