Our cities are successful and attractive because of its people. It is their character, smarts, and creativity that brings the allure, the warmth, and the grace to the places that we qualify as charming, refined, or brilliant. Our opinions and beliefs are formed through their stories. Our feelings emerge in view of their achievements. Our perception of trust and safety adjusts as we observe their interaction with each other, with physical properties, and us.
Take the people away, and you get a painting without a soul. You get a vehicle without its engine. You get a world without life. People need cities, but most importantly the cities need its people.
Never in history that ordinary citizens have been as important to cities as they are now. The competition for talent pool is fierce. It can no longer be business as usual for them. In the Age of Information, people are increasingly better informed and more mobile and free to move to places that provide them with better opportunities. The contest does not only come from neighboring municipalities, but rather from other counties, states, and countries.
If the standards of living are higher in another town, offering better transportation, jobs, and civic engagements or favorable rules, regulations, and tax codes, or anything else that can make a person’s life more convenient, people consider moving and many do. Every year, about 10 million Americans move from one county to another according to US census. More than 40% of the current US population has moved out of the State of their birth.
People simply follow their wallets and their hearts. They want better opportunities and environments where they feel at ease and welcome. Most of those who leave their cities for other urban areas are the educated of the societies. Better informed, they follow more desired opportunities. Success breeds success.
Many cities across the United States and across the Globe are increasingly experiencing ‘brain drain’, yet their overall population keeps growing. The general migration patterns toward urban areas haven’t changed. They are increasing. Some urban areas will see up to 400% increase in the next 30-35 years. What will change for them, is their talent pool. With increased population and less talent, the cities will progressively find themselves with declining economic growth, diminishing entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities, deteriorating educational and urban infrastructure, outmoded growth plans, and overall scanty advancement opportunities.
When we are faced with more people in need, yet scarcity in opportunities, the economic issues can quickly turn into social and political affairs, significantly increasing criminal activities and possibly bringing about political unrest.
When people are persistently unemployed or faced with low wages, two things are expected to happen. If they have mobility of capital, they will likely leave. If those that leave are educated and bright, it will lead to ‘brain drain’. If they stay, then they will look to hold ‘someone’ accountable for the disparity of what they were expecting and what it is. Similarly, if those that stay are the poorly educated or the unskilled, then they need to do something to get by. You are free to use your imagination as what these two groups of individuals will look to do.
In 2016, every city has the opportunity to flourish. The road to riches is fairly simple. Smart urbanization helps ensure growth and prosperity. Transitioning cities into smart urban areas is not really an option or a luxury any longer, it is rather a provision for avoiding the conditions that cause extended economic hardship, high crime rates, or political dissonance.
Today, you no longer simply build buildings, you build cities where buildings and the rest of its infrastructure bring convenience and opportunity to its residents and beyond. Certain urban areas have gone through great measures to ensure that their citizens are comfortable and content. In Amsterdam they have established Living Labs, where the residents work with the leadership to build a Smart City. The City of Barcelona has developed UNE-certified quality process for innovation. The small island city-state of Singapore has built a Smart Nation Platform to connect everyone, everything, and everywhere all the time in the country.
If the Smart Cities and Smart Societies were an Iceberg, then we have only seen the tip of it. Those on the forefront of the ‘smart’ movement, will harvest the largest piece of the estimated $20 trillion economic impact in the next 10 years. The future of our cities is not only bright, it is also super ‘smart’! Get on board.