The World Exposition in Shanghai is ending soon at the end of October. It is a chance for many visitors to get a temperature of the world trends with more than 100 national pavilions covering over 5 square kilometers. It is also an opportunity to look at the impact of new technologies on urban lives. As a matter of fact, the theme of Expo 2010 is “Better Life, Better City”.
China has experienced one of the fastest growths in urban living and has recently reached a tipping point: over half the Chinese population is now concentrated in cities like Shanghai, compared to only 13% in 1950. By comparison, urban population in the UK grew from 79% to 92% as reported in the Guardian last year.
It is not a surprise that improving life conditions in cities like Shanghai plagued by pollution is a major challenge for the Chinese Government. One epic traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet express way made the headline in August by stretching over 60 miles. Chinese authorities also had to limit vehicle use, close factories temporarily and halt construction projects to clear the smog above Beijing ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Some argue that the move to urban living is good for the environment because of denser housing and greater use of public transport. Studies have shown city dwellers on four continents have smaller carbon footprints than their countries' national averages.
Yet developing a better urban environment is a challenge for the world, not just China. The battle ground to reach Kyoto commitments in 2020 is definitely the city. About 80% of the world population is expected to live in cities in 2020. This is where citizens can act and local Governments can work in tandem with the private sector in a finite eco-system where results can be measured and tracked easily.
There are many opportunities to live smarter and better by modernizing public transportation, renovating buildings to green standards and rethinking the way we interact. Cisco, who organized its Connected Urban Development conference at the 2010 Expo, was one of the rare corporations to hold a pavilion to highlight the role of Information and Communication Technologies in changing the way we live, work, learn and play.
More can be done. More ideas are needed. The city of San Francisco hosted the first CUD conference and continues to be at the forefront of smarter living. A new conference called the KI will take place on Treasure Island mid-October and will feature several interesting showcase areas around innovate technology transportation, sustainable design and forward living.