Managing, financing, feeding, feeding, health, educating, mobilizing, entertaining and satisfying the needs of nearly 8 billion people is undoubtedly the greatest challenge humanity has ever witnessed.

Global overpopulation represents an unprecedented challenge and traditional administration and management schemes have become overwhelmed.

Smart Cities and Territories (Smartcities) should emerge as the best solution for the efficient management and administration of the present and future challenges of humanity.

How can Smart Territories address the challenges of human overpopulation?

By: Gabriel E. Levy B.

In recent centuries, humanity has shifted a large part of the population from rural areas to urban centers. In a very short time we have gone from being essentially agricultural societies to societies based on manufacturing production and later on information and knowledge societies.

But while we have exponentially improved many aspects of human life, such as health management, increased literacy or mass food production, in reality what we have caused is a colossal concentration of millions of people in very limited spaces of land, people we call citizens, who demand inordinate amounts of supplies, while producing colossal levels of waste, constituting an unprecedented challenge for humanity itself, to provide an adequate supply chain and services in education, health, housing, food and entertainment.

For the academic Enrique Ruz Bentué, author of the book “Ciudad Inteligente, Ciudad al Fin y al Cabo”[1], one of the main differences with respect to other moments in the history of humanity is the great value we place on cities or towns:

“We are living in a period in which the value of cities is extremely important. We have lived through the value of empires, of countries, and now we are living through the great revolution of cities.”

Enrique Ruz Bentué.

For Ruz Bentué, the greatest challenge facing humanity in the coming years is to prepare cities to mitigate the effects of exponential and overwhelming demographic growth, especially due to migration from rural areas to urban centers.

Is humanity ready to take on this challenge?

For astrophysicist Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, the world is not prepared to face the environmental challenges posed by urban overpopulation.

A report by National Geographic, published in its digital edition for Spain[2], consulted with Sánchez on the impact of global overpopulation:

“There are no policies that actually measure environmental impacts in many areas reliably.

Without evidence-based policies, without measures, all policies remain only good intentions at best and frauds at worst” Alejandro Sanchez de Miguel[3].

That same vision is shared by many urban planners and land-use planning experts around the world, and the evidence proves them right.

The inability to efficiently manage waste, the problems of mobility and traffic in all major cities, the collapse of sanitation systems, global warming and the very high poverty rates are just some of the many indicators that highlight the failure of governments and peoples to provide effective solutions to their most pressing problems.

The prevalence of the Local

For the academic and consultant Ruz Bentué, the great changes will not come from central governments, multinationals or parliaments; on the contrary, the solutions to the great problems afflicting humanity will have to be found in the cities, through efficient and sustainable urban planning:

“A climate change project promoted by a municipal government is much more achievable than the agreements that can be made at the international level in the great forums of debate that take place around the world.”

Enrique Ruz Bentué.

The Role of Smarticites

Achieving a true transformation of the present unsustainable way of human life towards a sustainable future, in which access to health, food, education, housing, employment, mobility and entertainment is guaranteed, will only be possible through the Digital Transformation that derives from the implementation of Smart Territories.

For the new generation of urban planners, technological tools are indispensable to achieve an adequate urban reorganization and planning for the future, it is for this reason that technologies such as Artificial Intelligence begin to play a leading role, incorporating new variables in urban modeling and design, such as “Big Data“, or “Autonomous Learning Algorithm Systems”, Facial Recognition” technologies, “Blockchain” systems, or “High Speed Connectivity” and most importantly: Nature and people as a cross-cutting axis in the designs.

“Covering the earth with concrete has had a big impact on rising urban temperatures. Re-carpeting our floors with green means not only seeing more nature from our windows, but also banishing the increasingly noticeable heat island effect in cities around the world.”

Specialized Article from National Geographic[4]

But something we should not lose sight of is that the tools are a technological aid that facilitates the work of urban planners, however, they are not the predominant or transversal factor in urban designs.

In this regard, Sánchez de Miguel assures that the measures to be applied should not focus exclusively on the use of tools such as “artificial intelligence” or “the internet of things”, but on people, their intellect and creativity.

“The human factor, from a design and scientific point of view is as, or even many times more, important than technology.

A city is highly complex and needs different departments to work together in an interdisciplinary way. That is the real challenge to be a Smart City.”

Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel[5].

It is precisely in this sense that Smart Cities models should be approached as useful aids or tools for human creativity and not the other way around.

“Data and technology alone do not make a city smart.

For a city to be a Smart City, it has to be intelligent, and intelligence today still resides in people.”

Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel[6].

In conclusion, as the population becomes increasingly concentrated in large cities, the challenges increase in the same proportion, making it evident that current government strategies are not sufficient to provide solutions to all the needs that large cities demand, especially global overpopulation.

Many experts around the world agree that the path we must follow in the coming years must put citizens at the center of public policies and from this strategy, beginning to implement technological tools such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things or the management of Big Data, promoting a real digital transformation that allows to manage efficiently, humanely and in harmony with nature, all the needs of large cities and that ultimately, is nothing more than making the territories intelligent, that is to say, turning cities into “Smartcities”.

[1] Smart city, city, after all, Enrique Ruz Bentué. Editorial Cultiva Libros S.L., 2016 1635037786, 9781635037784. 250 pages.
[2] Specialized Article fromNationalGeographicen Español
[3] Specialized Article fromNationalGeographicen Español
[4] Specialized Article fromNationalGeographicen Español
[5] Specialized Article fromNationalGeographicen Español
[6] Specialized Article fromNationalGeographicen Español