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Smarter Cities

Smart Cities International: Delhi's Water ATMs, Anti-Noise Gardens, Bogota's Mobile Schools

Here is a preview of our exclusive newsletter to keep up-to-date and stay inspired by Smart City innovations from around the world.

Valencia, Spain, has just launched a digital platform to make city data available to all
Valencia, Spain, has just launched a digital platform to make city data available to all
Emily Liedel

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JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE·TRANSLATED INTELLIGENCE
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Hello city folk!

No one wants to live in a concrete jungle. Even those of us who are die-hard urbanites prefer an urban environment that is dotted with greenery — whether it is parking-strip gardens, tree-lined streets, parks or nature reserves. Being among nature calms us, purifies the air and, in the case of trees planted between sidewalks and roads, can even help prevent deadly accidents.

So it’s no surprise that creating and preserving more greenery is a priority for any city that prides itself on livability. This week, in addition to other smart city news, we’re looking at how Dakar is giving extra attention to its green spaces and how a Swedish study found other, less-expected benefits to mixing urban environments with some rural touches.

— Emily Liedel
WATER ATMS
The Indian water company Sarvajal has developed a water-dispensing system that can provide clean drinking water virtually anywhere, as its machines are solar-powered and cloud-connected. The "water ATMs" were originally designed to bring clean drinking water to remote rural areas, but the company started a pilot project in the city of Delhi last fall, SciDev.Net reports. The company was given license to set up a dispenser where the city’s water infrastructure hadn’t been built, which includes many of informal settlements and unregulated encampments. There are already 24 machines located around the city, and the pilot project is expected to run for two years before the city decides on the best way to integrate these water ATMs into the existing water system.
GREEN NOISE WALLS
For many designers, building a vertical garden on a building’s exterior is often an aesthetic, impractical choice. But there are very down-to-earth reasons to build such gardens. A Swedish study, funded by the European Union, found that the "green walls" substantially reduce the outside noise that makes its way inside, replacing unpleasant traffic sounds with the sounds of leaves rustling. The greenery also provides thermal insulation, cooling the building’s interior without air conditioning.
KEEPING WATER PUBLIC
After an 18-month struggle by civil society, environmental activists and employees at the Lagos Water Corporation, the Nigerian city's public utility has stopped negotiations with the World Bank to privatize its water supply, the Premium Times reports. In fact, the utility now claims that it never planned to privatize water at all, but civil servants who work at the agency insist that it did and were most vocal in their opposition to the plan. According to privatization critics, the plan would have led to skyrocketing prices, making water unaffordable for many of the city’s residents, similar to what happened when Lagos’ electricity was privatized.

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Coronavirus

Why Making COVID Predictions Is Actually Getting Harder

We know more about COVID than ever before, but that doesn't make it easier to predict what will happen this year. It also remains to be seen if we'll put the lessons we learned into practice.

​A young boy who arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

A young boy who arrived from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

Duncan Robertson

In 2020, we knew very little about the novel virus that was to become known as COVID-19. Now, as we enter 2023, a search of Google Scholar produces around five million results containing the term.

So how will the pandemic be felt in 2023? This question is in some ways impossible to answer, given a number of unknowns. In early 2020, the scientific community was focused on determining key parameters that could be used to make projections as to the severity and extent of the spread of the virus. Now, the complex interplay of COVID variants, vaccination and natural immunity makes that process far more difficult and less predictable.

But this doesn’t mean there’s room for complacency. The proportion of people estimated to be infected has varied over time, but this figure has not fallen below 1.25% (or one in 80 people) in England for the entirety of 2022. COVID is very much still with us, and people are being infected time and time again.

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