Economic Risks: Out of what is unplanned investment Spotlight? 4 Engineering the Future: How Can the Risks and Rewards of Emerging Technologies Be Balanced? Part 2: Risks in Focus: 2. The world is experiencing a historically unprecedented transition from predominantly rural to urban living.
If managed well, urbanization can bring important benefits for development. Cities are an efficient way of organizing people’s lives: they enable economies of scale and network effects, and reduce the need for transportation, thereby making economic activity more environmentally friendly. The proximity and diversity of people can spark innovation and create employment as exchanging ideas breeds new ideas. One of the main factors driving rapid urbanization in emerging economies is rural-urban migration motivated by the prospect of greater employment opportunities and the hope of a better life in cities.
Indeed, when a certain critical mass of population is reached, it is economically viable to deliver many infrastructure projects, such as public transportation. Rapid urbanization can alter the nature of almost every global risk considered in this report by influencing its likelihood and impact. In addition, cities are points of convergence of many risks, which make them particularly vulnerable to chain reactions and amplify the interconnection between global risks. Better knowledge of how such risks interconnect in their materialization at the city level is the first step towards helping cities build resilience. As cities in developing countries are expanding rapidly, it is likely that infrastructure will not be able to keep pace with their growth nor the increased expectations of their populations. Action to close the infrastructure gap is urgently needed and will strongly influence the potential of risks to have catastrophic cascading effects. 12 Most of this investment will be needed in emerging economies.
Where will the money come from? Most governments are under tight budget constraints and many developing countries already spend a large proportion of their national income to meet the basic needs of their population. 14 Consequently, cities are looking for public-private collaboration to involve the private sector in the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure. Much discussion revolves around the potential for technology to increase the efficiency with which urban infrastructure can be managed. The use of big data, the Internet of Things and ubiquitous smartphones promise to revolutionize aspects of city management, from keeping traffic flowing to reducing electricity outages, tackling crime and preparing for emergencies. One excellent case study is the city of Surat in India.
Hitting rock bottom due to a public health disaster in 1994, it introduced measures to drastically raise hygienic standards, making it one of the cleanest cities in India today. Almost 700 million urban dwellers currently lack adequate sanitation. NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, are the leading cause of death globally. These diseases affect high-, middle- and low-income countries. Addressing non-communicable diseases will require efforts to tackle the causes of air pollution, which is estimated to have caused 7 million deaths in 2012. 25 Air pollution tends to be more of a problem in developing than developed countries, in part due to coal-fired power plants and the use of biomass for cooking and heating, but mostly due to private transport vehicles.