From Smart Cities to Good Cities: Increasing Urban Quality Life
Cities are increasingly being described with words that show their most unique factor. For example, the ones based on technology use the word “smart” to denote the effective collection of data on multiple fronts for analysis and informed decision making (Thales, 2021). Alternatively, words like livable, healthy, sustainable, adaptable, carbon-neutral, and inclusive are also used in their respective contexts; however, each different type has its limitations which make it lacking in some regard. Therefore, a more accurate measure of a city’s success can be how good that city is to live in. Using this metric, a city’s administration can focus on the needs of its residents and introduce relevant mechanisms that ensure the highest standard of living. Considering the fast-paced development of the modern world, it can be seen that most people want to work and live in urban cities (Lumen, 2021). However, with a massive influx of people coming into cities, it has become increasingly difficult to manage and provide urban infrastructure for all. Continue reading to understand the factors that make a city good to live in.
Why Urban Living Matters
Most people in the world, if not all, want to live in an urban city. The comfort of urban life, the glamour, job opportunities, education, healthcare, and other benefits increase the charm of urban life. This makes a large number of people migrate from rural to urban areas every year. However, cities are not equipped to expand at such a rapid pace. Most often, the city administration cannot provide the proper housing and infrastructure to such people, quickly fading the charm of urban life. Still, economic opportunity makes people live in informal settlements with little to non-existent municipal amenities and services. These people are mostly the lower to lower-middle income class and are a necessary part of many of the city’s functions. Coupled with a high growth rate of population, cities continue to experience challenges of pollution, traffic, garbage disposal, poverty, increasing crime, distance from nature, and so on. All these factors complicate living standards for urban residents and make adopting one single solution problematic for solving all problems. Cities have already started implementing sensors and data collection devices in multiple departments and infrastructure development to better understand these problems and formulate an effective strategy for making data-driven decisions. Another important step taken by cities comes in the form of sustainable development of infrastructure. Development materials with a low-carbon footprint and high efficiency in cost and supply chain are used to ensure that the environmental impact of construction is reduced to the lowest possible rate. However, there lies an opportunity cost in every development choice, and integration of technology and sustainable practices do not always translate into a better living experience for all segments of society.
Principles for Better Cities
Four key principles enable a city to become better. Cities should take into consideration the requirements and needs of their residents and how bringing changes will impact the demographics and infrastructure over time. The four principles to ensure an optimum lifestyle are ecology, economy, politics, and culture. Cities should have a deep and integrated relationship with nature. This principle enhances focus on renewable energy, cleaner waterways, increased green cover, urban forests, dedicated non-motorist vehicle lanes, priority to the public over personal transport, proper waste management, solid waste disposal, community food gardens, and many other aspects. The second principle is related to the economy of a city. A city’s economy should be organised and focused on social needs and goals. Therefore, a shift must be made in focus from global to the local or regional economy. There should also be steps to lower the consumption of products that are not produced locally or regionally and must be imported. Workplaces must also be brought closer to residential communities so that the demand for public transport is reduced. By ensuring that the principle of economy is kept in consideration, cities can also attract professionals and foreign tourists for more progressive growth (Ecocity World Summit, 2021).
The third principle for cities to become effective is to pay attention to politics. City administration should have an enhanced emphasis on public engagement and negotiation in all key city developments. If communities are democratically engaged in the decision-making process of the city’s future, they can better adapt to the changes. Changes in land acquisition laws over time can have a profound impact on the wealth of individuals. This area must also be decided on, keeping into consideration the interests of the city’s residents. This will also create a sense of equity and justice among city inhabitants, ultimately allowing for a greater acceptance of the law. Non-profit government functions, philanthropic organisations, communication, education, and other services must also be subsidised as much as possible. The last principle for creating better cities is to actively develop culture and treating it as an ongoing process. Culture can be used in many ways to deal with uncomfortable situations of identity and differences. There should be an active area for cultural performances, exchanges, and interactions in residential and commercial facilities that also push for gender equality in all aspects of life. Museums and culture centres highlight the development of a society over time and close the gap between development and cultural traditions for the younger generations (Choudhry, 2021).
A good city design and planning must consider socio-ecological balance, creative response, and reduce exploitation of the planet’s resources. Change should not be made just for the sake of change or development; rather, practical aspects of those changes must be deliberated on by all the involved stakeholders to respect the unique demands and requirements of all groups. This will allow for greater coherence among the nature, environment, and inhabitants of cities, leading to a change in the theme for thinking around good cities. A good city would not be good only to humans but to the entire planet, endeavouring for sustainable, healthy, compassionate, and happy living.