Sustainable cities among technological variables in policy-making and decision-making

by

Dr. Azab Al-Aziz Al-Hashemi

International expert in information systems,

city technology and clean energy

Introduction

A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technology to improve the quality of life, make urban operations and services more efficient, and enhance its competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of current and future generations in terms of economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects.

In addition to the fact that cities in which all urban systems and services are connected do not yet exist, many cities are on their way to becoming smart and sustainable cities. They rely on ICTs, for example, to promote energy efficiency and waste management, improve housing and healthcare, improve traffic flow and safety, detect air quality, alert police to street crime and improve water and sewage networks, among others.

Sustainable cities and policies

If we look at the post-pandemic world scene, where the vast majority of countries experienced a decline in their GDP in 2020 and only recently started to recover, many questions arise about what the new phase of economic recovery, political life and social interactions will look like.

  The prospects look good overall. According to a report prepared by the International Monetary Fund in October 2021, global economic growth reached 5.9 percent by the end of 2021, while the current growth for 2022 was 4.9 percent. The obstacle lies in the fact that this economic recovery comes in the context of an atmosphere of increasing ambiguity and the difficulty of sacrificing things for more important things when choosing the policies to be implemented. Against this background, one wonders about the role of leaders in shaping the future and about their leadership vision for their societies.

            A very striking example of this is the countries of the Middle East, specifically the Arab Gulf states, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman. Projects for economic diversification before the pandemic, and their leaders prepared their vision for the future of their country.

The future vision drawn for society constitutes an essential element of the role of leaders towards citizens. This vision can be formally generalized to society through projects and axes included in the framework of a strategic plan, as the Kingdom did in the “Saudi Vision 2030”

            The country’s leaders chose a kingdom-wide growth plan “accompanied by the systematic development of infrastructure.” But at the same time, they aim to develop the quality of life for everyone and meet the needs and requirements of citizens. For this purpose, they want to develop “high-quality services, open spaces and gardens, in order to meet the recreational needs of individuals and families.” Reconciling economic growth, on the one hand, and the safety of citizens, and preserving the environment, on the other, poses a challenge to leaders due to the tension and conflict of interests between these three factors. with the steps taken.

           Philosopher Byung Chul-han of South Korea said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed us into a society whose purpose is resilience, which has lost the meaning of enjoying life,” where “we sacrifice happiness for health.” In his latest book, which was published, Chul-han says that “the earth system is giving way to the digital system, so the world of no-things replaces the world of things.” In the face of developing smart cities, it is necessary to pave the way for the “smart citizen” as an alternative or contemporary model This means that it is not permissible, nor in any case, to give priority to technology at the expense of the human being – the mere existence of it should be only for the sake of improving human life, and not to pose a challenge or harm.

The integration of technology that supports smart cities, the information and communication technology sectors, and communication infrastructures, specifically high-speed bandwidth and internet systems (Blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning, has already begun to be integrated into the reality of cities. But it remains for us to determine the citizens’ reactions to the spread of this technology. In the new post-pandemic context, will new digital services be more and more promoted to bridge the gap left by physical and social distancing? Or will citizens, on the contrary, prefer physical contact in open and curated spaces, in other words, in a natural environment not dominated by technology?

Finally

            This comprehensive vision of leaders must be translated into using technology as a means to facilitate and integrate sustainable development goals into the city, helping to develop an alternative economy and diversifying the risks of oil price volatility. This also ensures the sustainability of funding for the model and its implementation plan. But to achieve this, it is necessary to rely on the active involvement of citizens, as they influence the outcome of these policies through consumption patterns and their participation in innovations and new business models (for example through “open innovation”) that form the basis of these new smart cities, On the other hand, if countries are to achieve rapid economic growth, they must promote new leaders in business and society to embrace a greater proportion of the private economy than the current weight of the formal economy (which currently accounts for about 60 percent of GDP). Therefore, the role of current leaders in searching for, identifying and developing new leaders from among the population seems to us to be the first priority and an objective necessity.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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