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Four ways start-ups can transform a city

Victor Mulas's picture

From Berlin to Cairo, from Medellín to New York City, new start-ups are flourishing in the heart of the city instead of occupying suburban areas or remote technology parks. This is the new model of start-up innovation ecosystems propelled by the so-called “fourth industrial revolution.”

Are these city-based start-up ecosystems generating new economic opportunities and jobs? If so, how are they doing it? To better understand this new model and its potential economic impact, we studied the evolution of the start-up ecosystem in New York City. 

An aerial view of DUMBO, a neighborhood in Brooklyn that has become a tech hub. © Albert Vecerka/Esto Photographics under CC


The city’s vibrant start-up scene is a recent phenomenon. With more than 14,500 start-ups and nearly $6 billion in venture capital investments, New York City today has one of the largest and most vibrant start-up ecosystems in the world. Just 10 years ago, the start-up community in the city was small, scattered, and disorganized.

The incredible transformation of the city’s start-up scene provides a few key insights on the characteristics and potential impact of the urban ecosystem model:

A year of building sustainable communities in 12 stories

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
What are some of the key issues that will shape global development in 2017?

​From addressing the forced displacement crisis to helping indigenous communities, and from implementing the “New Urban Agenda” to enhancing resilience to disasters and climate change, one thing is clear: we must step up efforts to build and grow economies and communities that are inclusive, resilient, and sustainable for all—especially for the poor and vulnerable.
 
In the timeline below, revisit some of the stories on sustainable development that resonated the most with you last year, and leave a comment to let us know what you wish to see more of in our “Sustainable Communities” blog series in 2017.

Postcards from Quito on the New Urban Agenda

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español

Photos: World Bank

More than two months have passed since the whirlwind that was Habitat III, the UN’s once-every-20-year summit on cities and urban development. From big data to climate change, public spaces to municipal finance, the conference truly seemed to have something for everyone. Long queues to enter the conference aside, what was striking was also the sheer number of young participants at the event, many of whom were students, planners and architects from Quito.

So what did people in Quito really think about the future of cities? We asked visitors to the World Bank’s booth at the Habitat III exhibition to tell us, by writing on postcards, what they thought was needed to create sustainable cities for all. Of the more than 200 postcards received, several recurring themes were clear:

Postcards from Quito on the New Urban Agenda (World Bank Group)

How can Hong Kong stay smart and competitive? By driving change through a 'Public-Private-People Partnership' approach

Dr. Winnie Tang's picture

According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017,” Hong Kong dropped two notches to rank as No. 9 in its Global Competitiveness Index. The decline occurred mainly because the city faces challenges to “evolve from one of the world’s foremost financial hubs to become an innovative powerhouse.”

One might argue this is an unfounded worry: After all, as a developed economy with a GDP per capita of US $42,000, Hong Kong has recorded an impressive GDP growth rate, over the last five years, of about 3 percent annually. This growth rate is higher than many developed economy.

However, if we look at the economic figures more closely, some worrisome early warning signs are already emerging – especially in terms of the factors that will drive Hong Kong’s future economic growth.

Apart from finance and insurance, the majority of Hong Kong’s GDP growth nowadays is contributed by “non-tradable” sectors that have less knowledge and innovation content, such as the construction and public-administration sectors.

According to the World Bank’s latest research on “Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth,” long-term economic success and job growth in cities are usually driven by “tradable” sectors – economic sectors whose output could be traded and competed internationally. Firms in tradable sectors are exposed to fierce competition which, in turn, exerts pressure on them to invest in research and knowledge-intensive sectors so that they become more productive and innovative in order to remain competitive internationally. Hong Kong is now lagging behind its Asian and world peers in the critical features of knowledge and innovation.

Although the urgency to act to increase the knowledge-driven content of the economy is obvious, there seems to be a limited number of actions taking place here on the ground in Hong Kong.  How can Hong Kong forge ahead and start making changes?



Staying competitive in today’s global economy is like sailing against the current: Either you keep forging ahead, or you will fall behind.


The World Bank’s Smart Cities Conference – held in Yokohama, Japan last month – presented some good examples from around the world on how to use a bottom-up approach with active citizen engagement to increase the chance of success in implementing changes. The audience was interested in learning about the successful transformation of Yokohama through the cities many initiatives, such as the development of the Minato Mirai 21 central business district.

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

Investing to make our cities more resilient to disasters and climate change

Joe Leitmann's picture

Urbanization comes at a price, especially in an era of climate change and increased risk of natural disasters.

Presently, the average annual loss from natural disasters in cities is estimated by the UN at over $250 billion. If cities fail to build their resilience to disasters, shocks, and ongoing stresses, this figure will rise to $314 billion by 2030, and 77 million more city dwellers will fall into poverty, according to a new World Bank/GFDRR report presented at COP22.

The good news is that we have a window of opportunity to make cities and the urban poor more resilient. Over 60% of the land projected to become urban by 2030 is yet to be developed. Additionally, cities will need to build nearly one billion new housing units by 2060 to house a growing urban population. Building climate-smart, disaster-resilient cities and housing is thus an immediate priority, especially in the developing world. 

To seize that opportunity, countries will need significant financing for infrastructure—over $4 trillion annually—and making this infrastructure low carbon and climate resilient will cost an additional $0.4 to $1.1 trillion, according to a CCFLA report.

Mobilizing private capital is the best bet for helping to close this financing gap.

Implementing the New Urban Agenda needs financially strong cities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities around the world face increasingly complex challenges such as rapid urbanization and climate change. Meanwhile, many cities facing the most pressing problems lack sufficient funding to meet local needs. This is especially the case for developing countries, where cities require significant infrastructure investment to provide basic services to growing populations and expanding urban areas.
 
How can cities access, leverage, and manage the fiscal and financial resources required to implement the New Urban Agenda and meet the growing needs of local populations?
 
To explore this issue, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez discussed the UN Habitat III policy paper on municipal finance and local fiscal systems with Mac McCarthy, President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Culture gives cities social and economic power, shows UNESCO report
UNESCO

Culture has the power to make cities more prosperous, safer, and sustainable, according to UNESCO’s Global Report, Culture: Urban Future to be launched in Quito (Ecuador) on 18 October. The Global Report presents evidence on how development policies in line with UNESCO’s conventions on the protection and promotion of culture and heritage can benefit cities. Current trends show that urbanization will continue to increase in scale and speed, particularly in Africa and Asia, which are set to be 54 and 64 percent urban by 2050. The world is projected to have 41 mega cities by 2030, each home to at least 10 million people. Massive and rapid urbanization can often exacerbate challenges for cities creating more slums and poor access to public spaces as well as having a negative impact on the environment. This process often leads to a rise in unemployment, social inequality, discrimination and violence.

Sustainable Cities: 3 Ways Cities Can Contribute to a Renewable Energy Future
HuffPost Blog

This week, global policy makers gather in Quito for the Habitat III Conference to reinvigorate the global commitment to the sustainable development of cities. Meeting every 20 years, the Habitat Conference will this year focus on setting a new Urban Agenda. Within this context and for the first time ever, the Conference will also discuss the rapid deployment of renewable energy as a means to achieve a sustainable urban future. This could not be timelier. Dramatic cost declines and technological innovations, present cities with an unprecedented opportunity to transform and decarbonise their energy supply on the basis of a positive economic case - an option that did not exist when the Habitat Conference last convened in 1996. This is great news, considering cities are home to 54% of the global population and generate 70% of global emissions.

Chart: Over Half the World Lives in Cities

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Over half the world lives in cities, and those cities are responsible for over 80% of global GDP. However, the high density of people, jobs, and assets which make cities so successful, also makes them vulnerable to the wide range of natural and manmade shocks and stresses increasingly affecting them today. Read more about how the World Bank is investing in urban reslience. 

What if…we could help cities more effectively plan a lower-carbon future?

Stephen Hammer's picture
Visit worldbank.org/curb

If climate change were a jigsaw puzzle, cities would be a key piece right at the center of it. This was reinforced by more than 100 countries worldwide, which highlighted cities as a critical element of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies in their national climate plans (aka INDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC in 2015.

Since the ensuing signing of the Paris Agreement, these countries have shifted gear to focus on turning their climate plans into actions. What if, as many of us may wonder, we could find a cost-effective and efficient way to help put cities—in developing and developed countries alike—onto a low-carbon path of growth?

CURB: Climate Action for Urban Sustainability, launched this Climate Week, is an attempt to do just that. A free, data-driven scenario planning tool, CURB can readily help cities identify and prioritize climate actions to reduce carbon emissions, improve overall efficiency, and boost jobs and livelihoods.

A joint vision for effective city planning

What CURB can do for cities owes very much to the inspiration and stories we have taken from them in developing the tool. It was a fortuitous few hours in early 2014 at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa that really got the ball rolling on the development of CURB.

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