WCS 2021 Session: Facing the Future with Confidence
22 June 2021 (Tuesday), 5.00pm – 6.10pm (Singapore time: GMT+8)
- Mochamad Ridwan Kamil, Governor of Province of West Java
- Juan Mari Aburto, Mayor of Bilbao
- Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
- Yang Baojun, Chief Economist of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, China
- Soichiro Takashima, Mayor of Fukuoka City
- Loh Chin Hua, CEO and ED of Keppel Corporation
- Chintan Raveshia, Cities Leader, Southeast Asia, Arup
- Prof Chan Heng Chee, Chairman, LKY Centre for Innovative Cities
Innovating Cities to be Fit for Many Futures
Cities’ innate capacity for innovation can equip them to respond confidently to future challenges like climate change and pandemics. Speakers at the WCS Session Facing the Future with Confidence shared how technology development and implementation will be crucial to tackling disruptions like infectious diseases and climate change, but only if they can get citizens on board.
Riding the wave together: Infinite opportunities amidst challenges
“Change is the only sure thing,” said Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, “We are at a moment of transcendental change with significant transitions on the horizon: technological-digital, energy-environmental and social, as well as health.” Dr Joachim von Amsberg, Vice President at AIIB, added that city and industry leaders must have faith that cities have a capacity for using innovative solutions to tackle urban challenges. “[Our] focus on ‘confidence’ is actually quite well-placed, because just like cities have managed challenges in the past, they will manage them again,” he expressed.
In order to build the confidence for our cities to once again manage their challenges, cities need the flexibility to be “fit for many futures”, Mr Chintan Raveshia shared. This flexibility is needed to address the effects of current, upcoming, and potential disruptors, some of which can have extended impacts to urban landscapes, social constructs and behaviours, as COVID-19 and climate change.
Technological innovation as key to confidence towards diverse challenges
Technology can help cities face key disruptions like the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Soichiro Takashima shared how Fukuoka is incorporating innovative solutions like ventilation systems and touchless technologies into their “Infectious Disease Resilient City” plan, where a building can soon be entered without touching anything, including restrooms and elevators – an innovation that can protect citizens against infectious diseases. Mr Raveshia highlighted how tools like Digital Twins of existing and future cities can help model and predict how cities may react during disruptions, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic or climate change.
Moderator Professor Chan Heng Chee emphasised the building of a city’s confidence against infectious diseases also needs climate action: “The pandemic is linked to climate change, and unless we tackle climate change with urgency, with global warming, it is possible that we are likely to see more pathogens emerging.” Mr Loh Chin Hua also noted that “the experience of dealing with COVID-19 will also make cities around the world more resilient and better prepared to deal with the next pandemic, and other trans-border issues”.
Governor Mochamad Ridwan Kamil shared West Java’s aim to reach 30% adoption of electric vehicles by 2030, explaining how the Internet of Things is used to feed fish in some West Javan farms. Heavy fish food is stored in containers with taps controlled by mobile phones, replacing the need for cars and trucks and reducing emissions. Meanwhile, Mr Yang Baojun, Chief Economist of China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, pointed to China’s efforts to make their cities hydro-resilient through promoting sponge city development by reserving, recycling, and reusing water.
Dr von Amsberg highlighted the need to find new technologies that increase energy efficiency and decrease carbon usage in energy. He noted the AIIB’s eagerness to work with cities to find these solutions, having devoted a targeted 50% of their financing to climate finance. Mr Loh from Keppel Corporation also shared that current technology and capacity makes it viable to build “floating cities”, which can help build climate resilience and address land scarcity issues.
Adopting technology in a human-centric and collaborative manner
City and industry leaders agreed that adoption of new technologies need to be human-centric and collaborative, to build confidence. Mayor Takashima noted that “people often feel uneasy when they first see a new machine or device”. He suggested that coordinating proof of concept demonstrations for citizens to see new ideas first-hand will help them feel at ease and can transition to touchless technology more smoothly. Mayor Aburto also shared that Bilbao’s goal is to be green, digital and inclusive, and this must be led by the rich ecosystem formed by institutions, businesses, universities and technology parks. Mr Yang added that one of China’s green goals is to transform lifestyles to accommodate and encourage more green construction. Similarly, Governor Ridwan Kamil shared how he sets the benchmark for a climate-friendly lifestyle by using an electric car himself, to persuade his citizens to join his sustainability initiatives. Mr Raveshia rounded this up by noting that managing urban issues like resilience, equity, and migration must work both “from the bottom-up, and the top-down, all the time.”