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Smart Cities International: Berlin Swim, Snapchat Traffic, Temporary Mega City

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

Lyon's Hikari development project
Lyon's Hikari development project
Emily Liedel

Cities depend on having just the right amount of the important things. That includes demographic growth. In places with stagnant or even declining populations, city leaders worry. As human populations peak and then start to trend downward, the city's very future is put into question.


But all too often, too much growth is the primary concern. This month, in addition to other smart city news, we'll compare the challenges confronting Chinese cities and African cities as they deal with different kinds of growth.

— Emily Liedel

COUNTING PEDESTRIANS

In Vienna, 2015 has been touted as the "year of walking," and the city has been flooded with publicity campaigns about how healthy, safe and modern it is to travel on your own two feet. So why is it that the city's pedestrian mode-share has actually decreased since 2010, Die Presse asks? (German) Some say part of the problem lies in the way things are counted: First of all, anyone who takes public transit has to travel part of the way by foot, but that portion isn't counted. And perhaps more importantly, most of the city's efforts to promote walking have taken place in the city center, where walking is already a preferred mode of transit. In the outskirts, on the other hand, pedestrianism has been almost totally neglected as mobility planners focus exclusively on where to put new subway or bus lines.

SMART PORTS

Many of the world's most important cities acquired their status because they were (and are) ports. But what does it mean to be a smart port city? According to La Tribune and France's Smart City Channel, a smart port is equipped to get cargo in and out without getting stuck for too long at any one point. Smart city tools are best applied in port systems when they manage to connect all of the actors, both on water and land, so they are better able to work together and move an ever-increasing volume of goods quickly into and out of their docking.

VERBATIM

"Cities compete among themselves ... They compete for talent, capital and tourists," explains Spanish economist Montserrat Pareja in El Periodico. According to Pareja, building high-tech smart city infrastructure is one way for individual cities to try to stand out in the competition.

AFRICAN CITIES NEED MORE DEMOCRACY

As more and more Africans move into cities, there are clear signs that urbanization is unequivocally good for the continent, increasing growth and reducing poverty, Quartz reports. Unfortunately, African cities do not have a strong history of sharing the benefits fairly among all their residents; and the trend towards car-dependent cities divided into slums and gated communities has barely slowed. So what does Africa need to do to build more equitable, sustainable cities? Start requiring urban development plans to pass democratically elected government bodies — in most places, there is virtually zero public input into urban planning policies — and reduce political corruption.

SNAPCHAT TRAFFIC?

Would you plan your commute differently if you had instant access to all of your city's traffic cameras? In Montreal, the city has chosen to make that information available to any motorist who wants to see what the freeways look like in real time, CNW Telbec reports (French). Montreal has cameras at around 250 intersections around the city, and they are now open for viewing to anyone. However, in an effort to protect individual privacy, the videos themselves are available only in real time and are not recorded.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK: 51 %

Like many African nations, Ghana has seen rapid urbanization in the past 30 years. Now 51% of Ghanians live in cities, with the number of urban dwellers having more than tripled in the past three decades. Over the same time period, the World Bank found that the poverty rate in the capital has dropped by 20% and the country's average annual GDP growth rate stands at 5.7%.


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Society

Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives?

There is a moment on Saturday or Sunday, after having spent ten hours with my kids, that I get a little exasperated, I lose my patience. I find it hard to identify the emotion, I definitely feel some guilt too. I know that time alone with them improves our relationship... but I get bored! Yes, I feel bored. I want some time in the car for them to talk to each other while I can talk about the stupid things we adults talk about.

A baby builds stack of blocks

Ignacio Pereyra*

This is what a friend tells me. He tends to spend several weekends alone with his two children and prefers to make plans with other people instead of being alone with them. As I listened to him, I immediately remembered my long days with Lorenzo, my son, now three-and-a-half years old. I thought especially of the first two-and-a-half years of his life, when he hardly went to daycare (thanks, COVID!) and we’d spend the whole day together.

It also reminded me of a question I often ask myself in moments of boredom — which I had virtually ignored in my life before becoming a father: how willing are we men to let fatherhood change our lives?

It is clear that the routines and habits of a couple change completely when they have children, although we also know that this rarely happens equally.

With the arrival of a child, men continue to work as much or more than before, while women face a different reality: either they double their working day — maintaining a paid job but adding household and care tasks — or they are forced to abandon all or part of their paid work to devote themselves to caregiving.

In other words, "the arrival of a child tends to strengthen the role of economic provider in men (...), while women reinforce their role as caregivers," says an extensive Equimundo report on Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighting a trend that repeats itself in most Western countries.

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