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Focus on ending social exclusion while developing smart cities: Experts

Talking at a plenary session on ‘BRICS Smart Cities Enclave’ on the second day of the three-day conference on Urban Transition here on Thursday, the experts noted that adoption of technology alone could not be the ultimate goal in creating smart cities.

“Technology should only be used as a tool to meet the aspirations of the people,” they added.
Academician from Brazil, D Alvaro de Oliveira expressed concern over the growing “social exclusion” in cities and rising isolation of different social groups and stressed that smart cities should aim at integrating people.

He cited the initiatives taken in Brazil to end social conflicts by creating integrated neighbourhoods in its capital Rio de Janiero and also in the Spanish city of Lisbon.

Oliveira also suggested establishment of BRICS Human Smart Cities Institute to mount collective efforts for socially and economically integrated urban development in the context of growing emphasis on smart city development.

IIT-Roorkie Director Pradipta Banerjee also noted that smart city development was “not all about technology” but meeting the needs of people.

“Urban development approaches should address the trust deficit between people and governance institutions,” Banerjee said. He favoured development of connected smart city regions rather than (stand alone) smart cities, including improvement in quality of rural areas.

South Africa’s Philip Harrison said BRICS nations should ensure that development of smart cities did not further increase existing inequalities in urban areas. “Governance should not be allowed to become more technocratic and less responsive,” he cautioned.

Chinese expert Lie Tie said given the huge mobile and Internet penetration in his country, the government was making ‘Internet’ the cornerstone of enhancing the efficacy of municipal governance and employment generation.

Georgy Antsev of Russia gave an account of the technology-based initiatives being taken in his country to effectively respond to the consequences of natural disasters and provide relief to people in quick time. 

As about 80 per cent of the world’s population lived along the coasts, Antsev said efforts were on to manufacture water vessels that could travel at a speed of over 500 km per hour to provide quick relief to disaster victims.

During a subsequent discussion on ‘Financing Urban Infrastructure’, the urban experts pointed to the strong correlation between inequality in access to infrastructure and inequality in incomes in urban areas.

They stressed on the need to ensure effective urban governance supported by a strong political leadership and vision to enable cities to attract huge investments required for building infrastructure.
They expressed concern over investments in urban infrastructure not resulting in adequate returns to ensure repayment and called for effective measures in this regard.

Emphasising the need for effective municipal governance, the representatives of member countries urged the BRICS Development Bank to support development of governance institutions.

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