Do modern cities really have fundamental flaws? If so, which issues deserve our attention most?
There is really no such thing as a unique model of a modern city with universal flaws and virtues. Metropolises are extremely diverse and the diversity of its citizens and cultures might change completely the potential solutions. That said, it is true that cities around the world face common issues and have similar imbalances in their functioning. You can see that in mobility, for instance. Big cities around the world with different cultures, climates and urban design face traffic congestion on a daily basis, from Moscow to Los Angeles, México, Delhi or Madrid. And traffic issues impact on the economy and sustainability of the city, and on the well-being of its citizens. But to tackle those problems and help build cities to live in you need to take into consideration how the inhabitants of every city live according to their needs and culture.
Mobility is one of the most transversal issues around the world. But housing will also be a key factor in an ever-growing urbanized world. Particularly in developing countries where city growth is becoming more and more rapid. In the developed world the housing problem is becoming different with new problems such as gentrification or effective management of tourism in global urban tourism hubs such as New York, Paris, Rome or Barcelona. The complexity of each urban ecosystem is what makes it both challenging but rewarding to find solutions for each case and also what makes collaboration between cities and between citizens and administrators key in the near future. And that is exactly what we try to achieve at Smart City Expo World Congress
What are you personally most excited about in this year’s Smart City Expo World Congress 2018?
This year we will host the biggest edition ever with a reshaped conference structure. The Smart City Expo World Congress 2018 will focus on five main topics: Digital Transformation, Urban Environment, Mobility, Governance & Finance, and Inclusive & Sharing Cities. But we will also host a series of side events or co-organized events that will reflect this paradigm shift toward more collaborative cities including the Sharing Cities Summit that will take place the day before and during Smart City Expo. The event will gather together Mayors and Deputy Mayors from leading cities from around the world to discuss how the continuous growth of sharing economies affect the life and economic development of the cities, and what innovative measures can be taken to meet the challenges and opportunities we face, such as how to differentiate digital platforms which are not constructed on truly collaborative models.
But there will also be dedicated spaces at the Congress for ‘Inclusive and Sharing Cities’ that will reflect the physical alignment of the show and what we believe is the main goal of smart urban transformation. Recent studies by companies and foundations such as Gartner and Nesta have concluded that the initiatives that do not have people at their very centre tend to fail and that successful smart cities will inevitably need to combine the best aspects of technology infrastructure while making the most of the growing potential of ‘collaborative technologies’ that enable greater collaboration between urban communities and between citizens and city governments. We want to reflect this on every space and theme of this edition and the Sharing Cities Summit as well as other event we will make public very soon will strengthen this stance.
To what extent can the Smart City Expo World Congress realistically have an impact on how city dwellers live?
We believe it has an impact because Smart City Expo World Congress is the leading international event on smart cities and smart urban solutions. It is true that it is a trade show and conference but over these past years it has actually become something more than that. Barcelona and our event have become the place where cities and their representatives, companies and experts in the urban field meet every year to share their initiatives, the results of their projects and devise together ways to tackle every challenge facing cities regardless of the location or type of metropolis they represent. It is the one place where knowledge, business and alliances are made. And projects that end up having an effect in the way people live in their own cities are born in Barcelona because of the collaboration and exchange of knowledge and experiences that happens here.
What have been some of your personal highlights from previous Smart City Expo World Congresses?
The first of my personal highlights would be experiencing the evolution of the leadership exercised by cities. How top-down governance model have been phased out into more inclusive ones and how city governing teams have redefined their strategies and organizational structures to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Along these lines, my second highlight would be how urban strategies have become citizen-centric: how the vast majority of plans are now putting the citizen in the center, and how they are clearly aiming to improve their quality of life. In third place, for me is watching the event become a real melting pot of cultures. To see how people from such different places and cultures come together, discuss and share their knowledges and experiences: Latin American cities and companies with Asian, American, European, African… And last but not least, as the event’s director I have to say that the enormous growth and international expansion of Smart City Expo and how in a handful of editions we’ve become a global benchmark and have started regional events in Kyoto (Japan), Montreal (Canada), Bogotá (Colombia), Puebla (Mexico), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Istanbul (Turkey), Casablanca (Morocco), Jaipur (India) and Curitiba (Brazil).
Finally, what are the top reasons that exhibitors and visitors alike should attend the Smart City Expo World Congress 2018?
The main reason for everyone involved in the urban sphere to attend is that Smart City Expo World Congress is the leading international event on smart cities and smart urban solutions and every actor working in the urban landscape comes to Barcelona. But also, because experts from the urban field as well as many other areas share their knowledge and offer their insights into what is happening and what might occur in the near future providing every necessary tool to understand what is to come in this ever more urbanized world.