Technology is a catalyst for building innovative and people-centred cities across Asia

04 November 2013 | Vijay Jagannathan, Secretary General, CityNet

Asia’s urban population is growing at a rapid pace and creating the largest sustained migration in the history of humanity. Over the next 20 years, Asia’s cities are expected to grow by an average of 42.7 million people per year. Due to this incredibly fast urbanization, many city leaders are overwhelmed with addressing arising critical problems and are left without the capacity to reflect on bigger picture issues. This is where collaboration between the public and private sectors can play a powerful role in helping cities to thrive.

As the new Secretary General of CITYNET, I am thrilled to be attending the 2013 CITYNET Seoul Congress this week alongside city officials, civil society leaders and urban activists across the Asia-Pacific region to share best practices and highlight opportunities to help cities become more innovative and people-friendly. With 131 cities and organizations in more than 20 member countries, CITYNET connects local governments, civil society and the private sector to exchange knowledge and build people-centered sustainable cities across the Asia-Pacific region.

In my role, I want to focus on a new narrative that centers less on the chaos of rapid migration and more on the boundless opportunities that urbanization brings to Asian cities, and the appetite for change I’ve witnessed across the region. Over the last 10 years, globalization has resulted in cities becoming increasingly important market hubs and has provided younger generations with enormous energy and potential to improve cities. I am a strong believer in the power of citizens – not just the educated and technology savvy – but all citizens. I believe that with our growing cities and expanding consumer bases, citizens have the passion and ability to change things for the better.

Technology is an important tool to empower cities to become people-friendly.  Access to the Internet and ‘easier to use’ development environments have already empowered hundreds of thousands of youth and developers to create cloud based mobile apps across the region that provide solutions to issues cities face. In addition to mobile apps, technology solutions can support good business practices, help improve governance and raise transparency to ensure that citizens’ needs are being met.

As a part of the new narrative for Asian urbanization, I see technology playing an essential role in tracking and measuring data on everything from government processes, to citizen services and social and economic development – city indicators leaders care about. The private sector can help cities stay one step ahead by ensuring innovative solutions that leverage the power of big data, social media and cloud computing are continually implemented across governments, businesses and schools.

Microsoft has joined us at the CITYNET Seoul Congress to present their Microsoft CityNext Initiative, an engagement model where Microsoft and their partners work closely with cities to apply innovative solutions with the goal of empowerment – for governments, citizens and businesses. I support this people-centric approach to transform operations and infrastructure, engage citizens and accelerate innovation. Microsoft CityNext fosters strategic partnerships to help city leaders develop sustainable cycles of innovation, opportunity, and progress to achieve ‘What’s Next’ for their cities.

By working together with private sector companies like Microsoft, city leaders and citizens, I believe cities across the Asia-Pacific region can harness the ideas, solutions, motivation and expertise to create more sustainable and people-friendly places to live.  I look forward to collaborating with fellow leaders from around the world this week who also share this passion for empowering the ever-growing citizens of Asia’s cities to facilitate urban innovation and positive change.

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Vijay Jagannathan
Secretary General, CityNet