Our cities are our future

09 December 2013 | Laura Ipsen, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft

We’re entering the age of cities, which reflects a profound shift in human populations. More and more people are moving to cities to build better lives. For the first time in history, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Eighty percent of the world’s GDP is created in cities. And, despite only representing 2 percent of the world's surface area, cities are responsible for 75 percent of the world's energy consumption and almost 80 percent of carbon emissions. They are hubs for higher education and advanced innovation in healthcare, science, and energy—the engines of new ideas and businesses that drive breakthroughs and economic growth.

What does that mean for the quality of life for everyone, urban or rural, and the future supply and demand for resources like energy, water, land, etc.?  I believe it will require a transformation in the way cities operate with people at the center of this renaissance and technology playing the role of enabler for what’s next. 

Cities are the economic engines of nations and need to not only survive, but to also reimagine their futures to be sustainable, innovative, and competitive. As the world becomes more urban and cities grow to millions of citizens, one area that’s top of mind for city leaders is meeting the increasing demand for healthcare while on a daily diet of austerity. Having worked with many major cities around the world, we know it’s no longer enough to do more with less. Cities need to do “new with less” through people-first innovation.

The exciting news is that the powerful convergence of cloud, mobility, big data, and social technologies available today can help them do just that. For example, cloud not only enables big data, social interaction and mobility, it also brings costs down to a point where huge infrastructure budgets are no longer necessary to enable tremendous gains in productivity, efficiency, and insights. 

Through Microsoft CityNext, cities can take advantage of these technologies to empower people—whether as citizens, in organizations, or in governments—to create healthier, more sustainable urban communities. Cities can use solutions from our vast global partner network to:

  • Transform operations and infrastructure to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and provide care to more people in more ways and places—whether at home, in community centers, the workplace, or virtually any point of need.
  • Engage citizens, clinicians, and organizations with personalized services and apps as well as real-time dialogue via social media. For example, cities can increase citizens’ access to care and information with mobile apps that are available 24/7. Likewise, by providing clinicians with enterprise-grade devices, apps, and access to real-time, relevant data, health organizations can better serve the community.
  • Accelerate innovation and opportunity. To tackle the challenges ahead, cities need to develop not just their technological capacity, but also their human capacity. It’s people—not technology—who will come up with ideas, solutions, and ventures to address health and societal challenges. Through programs such as Microsoft YouthSpark, cities can empower young people with 21st-century learning and personal development opportunities, expand digital inclusion with access and skills training, and nurture new businesses and innovators with resources and support.

While technology can create and even accelerate opportunities, we also know that citizens and businesses need to be engaged for the innovation necessary to move cities and health forward. There are no easy answers to the complex challenges cities face but putting people first and creating an open dialogue is crucial to empowering citizens, organizations, and governments to shape their future together.

CityNext helps people create healthier cities with healthier citizens. Check out CityNext solutions for health and social services for several ways to get started. Read about some great examples of people-first innovation in healthcare here and here. And keep checking back here as we continue the dialogue on how cities can shape their future—a future we all share.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Send us an email at healthdigital@microsoft.com or let us know on Facebook here or via Twitter here.

Laura Ipsen
Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft

Microsoft in Health Blog

About the Author

Laura Ipsen | Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft

In her current role, Laura leads a team of more than 1,900 professionals to deliver services to government, education, and healthcare customers in more than 100 countries. She previously worked at Cisco as head of the Connected Energy Networks unit. Read more