Urban areas are certainly important, but not exclusively so. Large swaths of population and economy reside in America’s suburbs, exurbs, and rural communities – each of which faces unique challenges that require tailored approaches. Americans outside urban areas not only recognize the impacts of climate change, they are driving unique adaptation approaches.
Cities have been the focal point for innovation and digitalization strategies for over a decade. From broadband deployment strategies, smart city pilots, projects and programs, to intelligent urban mobility schemes or open data initiatives: cities have led the way. Innovation agendas cannot and must not stop at city limits, however. Smart regional approaches represent the best recipe for digital inclusion, the scaling of relevant innovations, and accessibility to opportunity for all. Five points as to why we must and should consider smart region strategies for our communities.
Changing the paradigm from traditional technocratic solutions to those that are more agile, adaptable, and affordable is the key for the future. Although the water sector is conservative by nature, it needs innovation to challenge the status quo and that can overcome the constraints of existing infrastructure, governance, and prior decisions. It’s easy to put blame on governments, which are working hard and dealing at high volume to supply the demand of constituents. Citizens also must change their habits and tastes in order to make change work.
Some experts argue that smart precincts should provide a more complex and ambitious mix of space uses and typologies in a way that that defies simple characterisation. This view goes against allowing one typology to dominate the mixed-use precinct, and sees real value in the intermix between several different functions.
Especially if the government is offering matching funds to participating groups, a civic crowdfunding platform should be able to carry the compliance burden for participants. Small volunteer-led organizations can be burdened by agencies’ requirements that they submit forms and receipts before receiving their matching funds. Similarly, the delay between purchase and reimbursement can severely restrict cash flow for groups with small or no budgets.
Designers, planners, developers, and architects are trained to look beyond the boundaries of their project or site. The larger environment, history, culture, and economies shape the urban landscape whether for small sites, neighborhoods, districts, towns or cities. The metropolitan region is now the platform from which cities interact with the globe. As a result, every project must push beyond static jurisdictional boundaries or simple property lines to the regional context. Expanding the domain always leads to more sustainable and powerful schemes. It is essential for planning in the 21st century.
Earlier in my career I learned the hard way that you can never ratchet expectations above the baseline you set in those critical early moments of a project or initiative. People and organizations very quickly settle into the level of performance that they deem acceptable to you.
The Olympic motto is three Latin words: citius, altius, fortius – faster, higher, stronger. With electric rail and buses, taller green buildings in thriving mixed use neighborhoods, and resiliency with distributed renewables, these three attributes will also be said of Los Angeles in ten years.
As a result of these pilot projects, in Kadjebi, revenues doubled in just one year, and in Elmina, the tax collection base has been increased by a factor of 20 thanks to the implementation of billing and collection software and capacity building. Kumasi has significantly increased market revenues (by 48 percent in one month) by signing a social contract with a group of women locally known as ‘market queens’. In exchange for better sanitation facilities and street lighting, which ensures an overall safer environment in which to conduct their business, these women help with the revenue collection of market fees. The large harbur city of Tema was helped to develop plans for a phased transition from outsourcing their tax collection (at a cost of 30 percent of total tax revenues) to one that is handled internally. In Sekondi Takoradi we assisted in developing a mass communication campaign to make citizens aware of the relation between paying taxes and improved basic services.
When applied to today’s cities in a non-academic context, urban anthropology provides a kind of “outsider’s perspective” to the dominant fields of urban planning and design. An anthropologist’s brain is one that views the current age through the long arc of humanity; they see the comparison between the best and worst of the human condition, and can balance human needs with human desire accordingly. This leads to an acceptance (and appreciation) of cultural contexts, with communication and co-creation at its core.
Enthusiastic praise for Toronto’s successful transformation from “America’s Belfast” to one of the world’s most successful multicultural cities is rightly celebrated. However, praise should not obscure some of the very real limits to multicultural comity that have emerged with the passage of time. Two structural challenges – those of race and inequality – deserve attention.