When world economies develop, massive urbanization soon follows. As of 2008, there are now more people living in cities than rural areas around the world. Countries currently experiencing significant urban growth have an opportunity to learn from developed nations that have experienced similar trends in the past. With access to modern technology, cities can develop in smarter ways than ever before. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is using thoughtful planning and foresight to establish a new standard for urban development that other regions are likely to follow.
BRIC countries are experiencing the trend of urbanization more rapidly than any others. China alone expects a migration of over 350 million citizens to major cities by 2025. Such a massive movement will put stress on urban infrastructure and systems ranging from parking and public transportation to housing and public restrooms. Government officials and private corporations are seeking solutions that integrate information and communications technology (ICT) systems into everyday life.
IBM has made this effort into a major international marketing campaign, with the slogan, “Let’s build a smarter planet.” Rio de Janeiro was used to model the integration of a modern ICT system into the framework of a growing city. The Rio Operations Center has been established to coordinate these efforts and ensure that unforeseen disasters do not halt urban growth. Mudslides have plagued the city in the past, so weather patterns are being tracked by cutting-edge technological tools.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics coming to Brazil, there will never be a greater opportunity to show off what its cities have accomplished. Residents are expecting cities that have the opportunity to build infrastructure from scratch to integrate sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective practices into everything that they do.
As ICT systems have become less expensive, mature cities around the world are also attempting to adopt smarter technologies. With entrenched systems, structures, and processes, change is much more gradual than in emerging markets. This will give cities such as Rio de Janeiro the opportunity to surpass their mature counterparts in many areas, providing a competitive advantage into the future. Starting from scratch will be an opportunity to lead the direction of the rest of the world.