The role of culture and recreation in cities of the future

07 January 2013 | Eric Basha, Managing Director, Cities

It is a given that city leaders around the world see "competitiveness" as one of their key priorities. They compete to attract companies to their communities that will bring good jobs and they compete for skilled workers to fill those jobs. Of course, there is a chicken-and-egg relationship between good jobs and skilled workers-a city needs one to have the other to grow its local economy.

So what is it that attracts companies and workers? There are the obvious answers: companies look for attractive tax rates, access to resources such as energy and reliable infrastructure. Workers look for affordable housing, good schools, access to affordable healthcare, a manageable and a community in which they feel safe. But in the race to be a competitive city that can attract the brightest and the best -these are the minimum requirements.

In my view, for a city to become a place where skilled workers want to live, and therefore attract businesses, it must meet the aforementioned minimum requirements AND possess cultural and recreational amenities. From museums and libraries to theater, music and art venues to parks and community centers to restaurants and retail - in short all the things that provide something "to do" in a city and that shape its identity.

City leaders play a vital role in the cultivation of recreational and cultural assets. Policy decisions that drive local tax incentives or necessary zoning and urban planning changes can be potent levers in encouraging the development of these important city amenities. Increasingly, these important policy decisions are being informed by insights delivered by data analytic technologies.

Of course the cultural and recreation assets that make a city attractive to skilled workers also make it an attractive place for tourists and tourism is a powerful driver of economic growth.

Technology is increasingly playing a transformational role here. Solutions like the tourism application used in Luxor, Egypt is helping tourists quickly and easily find local attractions, while services like AirBnB and VRBO are changing the tourism paradigm-helping average residents turn their homes into hotels.

Recreation and culture are an integral part of what makes a city an attractive place to live and work. And technology, now more than ever, has an important role to play in this space. It is time all players in the evolving city discussion recognize the potential of technology to shape more prosperous cities of the future.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Eric Basha
Managing Director, Cities

About the Author

Eric Basha | Managing Director, Cities

Eric collaborates with government teams to help achieve new efficiencies, improve citizen engagement, and create economic opportunities – with particular focus on helping urban leaders make their city a better place to live, work and play.