Urbanisation and innovation will be the name of the game in tomorrow’s ‘Smart Cities’.

This is particularly true for cities in developing nations, in which the rate and ratio of urbanisation is likely to be the most extensive. Before this happens, however, special issues particular to developing nations must be resolved.

The operation of all Smart Cities revolves around innovation: technological innovation, professional innovation, environmental innovation. Smart Cities enhance and improve people’s lives in their native environments. Technology can work in tandem with sound city management, talented public workers and an overall well-run city, along with resident involvement. Smart Cities, to put it another way, are ‘smart’ all around.

Inspired by Singapore’s Smart Nation effort to attain improved living through innovation, the Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development – a joint project coordinated by the Government of Singapore and UNDP – centres around the topic of Digitalisation and Cities and around the expanded concept of Smart Cities, which is not all about technology.

This project revolves around a quartet of shared considerations pertinent to low- and high-income nations, and will call upon project organisers to construct smart structures and offer knowledge and support.

Smart City projects, programmes, and plans yield many positive results. They create jobs and businesses, alleviate environmental impact, render improved public services, and enhance lives for citizens.

The concept of Smart Cities means different things for different locales. The coastal city of Da Nang, Vietnam, is researching data to guarantee efficient water usage. Other low-lying Asian communities are investigating the possible applications of Smart Cities in the fight against climate change. In addition, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 also has very Smart implications.

As might be expected, humancentric design is truly the key to the success of Smart Cities. All means and applications of technological innovation in any given city must correspond with the needs and wants of the city’s residents.

Innovation is not a cureall, but can be highly helpful. Latin America communities are using technological advances to the very best effect, toward the achievement of alleviating congestion, enhancing air quality, and heightening overall quality of life. The city of Medellin in Colombia is using technological innovation to inspire social change, alleviate poverty and marginalisation, and to enhance the existence of its citizens in the long run.

Regardless of their location, Smart Cities must be inclusive—addressing the requirements of marginalised populations neglected by the vast majority of urbanisation campaigns. The design of inclusive Smart Cities was a topic investigated during the inaugural Digital African Week in 2019.

Smart city projects, centred around the leveraging of innovation, must use its assets to the best effect and to the pursuit of equality. Technological advances helpful to the underserved include the supply of postal service to those without addresses, facilitating access to financial services, resolving gender inequity, etc.

The implementation of the smart city concept has only just begun in various areas of the world. And as they pop up across the globe, these cities must be designed with an eye to their challenges, benefits and impacts.

To this end and to ensure best practice in Smart City design, the UNDP Global Centre will be gathering key figures in this area, so they can share the secrets of their success and explore possibilities for future collaborations. Events like the SDGInnovate series, planned in partnership with Singapore’s innovation catalysts, SGInnovate, play a pivotal part in addressing both the positive and challenging components of Smart City creation.

Innovation is set to play a crucial part in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 11—aimed to render communities more inclusive, sustainable, resilient and safe for everyone.