Published on Sustainable Cities

Supporting People-Smart Regions

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Apollo synthetic diamondThe Ecological Sequestration Trust has had a busy two months hosting workshops and meetings in India, China, Africa and the UK to discuss how to help these demonstration regions become more resilient and successful.

During this time, I also attended the UrbanTec Conference in Beijing and was struck by how various presentations on ‘smart cities’ emphasized that ICT systems were the key to building more resource efficient and resilient cities.

Yet, in our meetings with local communities as well as private and public sector representatives across the regions, it was evident how they actually have the creative ideas to go forward but lack essential planning, design and integrated systems modeling tools to find the best way forward. Land use planning, community engagement, closing resource loops, improved health — I could go on! These, and not ICT alone, are a real smart way to achieve resilience.

It then struck me that we need to enable communities in every region to be smarter in the way they plan investments, modify land use, manage resources and consume products. This is how the smart city region will be delivered. I am sure that ICT and data feedback loops will be helpful — but they will not deliver smart, resilient and adaptable regions on their own along with the profound shift in reducing pollution and non-renewable resource consumption that we desperately need.

Our team at the Ecological Sequestration Trust is developing an open source modeling tool for this, but how will people use it?

A possible answer came while I was in a diamond factory in Surat, India where 4000 incentivized people work at high-tech work stations in a modern building, creating precious diamonds from rough stones. I looked out of the window and when I saw the city I realized that we could have 4000 people in a building incentivized to create a more resilient, livable city using the Trust model. This is possible because the Model enables the economic benefit of change to be clarified and so the valuable city ‘diamond’ can be cut and polished by the community. That’s how the idea of what we are calling a “Collaboratory” was born. More on that after Rio.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Peter Head

Director, Arup and Executive Chairman, The Ecological Sequestration Trust

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