Model Cities across the South Chal­lenge Old Ways

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

Pi­o­neer­ing think­ing about how re­sources are used and how peo­ple live their lives is tak­ing place in the dy­namic economies of the global South. Fac­ing a vast pop­u­la­tion surge to ur­ban ar­eas, it in­cludes at­tempts to build “green” cities and low-waste, smart and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ties.

These model cities are clever so­lu­tions for the world’s grow­ing – and ur­ban­iz­ing – pop­u­la­tions cop­ing with a stressed and dam­aged en­vi­ron­ment. Un­like one-off tech­nolo­gies and ideas de­vel­oped in iso­la­tion, the model-cities ap­proach starts from scratch. The cities be­come liv­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries in which re­search and de­vel­op­ment take place at the heart of the com­mu­nity and are not just the pre­serve of aloof aca­demics hid­den away in labs.

This is crit­i­cal work be­cause the world is rapidly ur­ban­iz­ing and needs so­lu­tions to en­sure that this process does not lead to chaos and mis­ery. How these cities turn out could help to de­ter­mine the fate of hu­man­ity.

By 2025, Asia could have 10 or more cities with pop­u­la­tions larger than 20 mil­lion ( Far Eastern Eco­nomic Re­view). Peo­ple will be liv­ing in densely pop­u­lated cities and they will need to be smart cities if they are to work.

In the Re­pub­lic of Korea, the Dig­i­tal Media City (DMC) in Seoul bills it­self as a “har­mony of na­ture, hi-tec, and cul­ture”. The Seoul mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment de­vised the DMC in the 1990s to cap­i­tal­ize on the eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits of be­ing the world’s most dig­i­tally wired coun­try.

The DMC pro­ject serves the coun­try’s larger goals of tran­si­tion­ing from a man­u­fac­tur­ing to an in­no­va­tion econ­omy and pro­mot­ing Seoul as an East Asian hub for com­merce. The DMC is about cre­at­ing new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

But this isn’t just about busi­ness and re­search and de­vel­op­ment: it is a com­pre­hen­sive dig­i­tal-econ­omy ex­pe­ri­ence, with schools, hous­ing for the af­fil­i­ates of in­ter­na­tional firms, mod­er­ate and lower-in­come hous­ing, com­mer­cial and con­ven­tion fa­cil­i­ties, en­ter­tain­ment zones, and the city’s cen­tral rail sta­tion, all lo­cated in or near the Dig­i­tal Media City. – (Fe­bru­ary 2012)

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