Smart Cities and Design as a key lever for Change

On 25 February, Accelerate Cape Town held a Thought Leaders event, sponsored by Arup to look at Smart Cities and the role of design in transforming cities.  With 80% of all urban growth over the next 20 years taking place in Asia and Africa, Chris Whelan, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town said South African business leaders and other key players need to join forces to address the challenges this poses. With Cape Town as WDC 2014, we also looked at the opportunities for Cape Town and lessons learnt by Helsinki WDC 2012.

Our first speaker was Léan Doody, Global Leader for Smart Cities at Arup. Léan looked at the role of IT and data in the design of future cities. By using technology to understand how people interact with spaces, we can design better spaces and more efficient cities. Chris once again stressed  the need for a more rapid city-wide rollout of broadband connectivity to leverage Cape Town’s economic potential. Léan shared research reports relating to this topic which are listed at the bottom.

Our next speakers included Alayne Reesberg, CEO, WDC 2014 and Laura Aalto, Communications Director, World Design Capital 2012, Helsinki. Alayne highlighted the need for collaboration between designers who introduce new ideas and modes of thinking, and business who can support WDC2014 initiatives. Find out more about the WDC 2014 Pitching Sessions.

Laura focused on the impact of WDC 2012 on Helsinki. They received a lot of media attention which helped position Helsinki as a creative design destination on the world map. They also had 2.5 million visitors in a country with a population of 5 million. Their other key achievements included:

  • Ensuring design and design thinking is in the general consciousness and part of problem solving. Design is now part of the City’s strategy and a third of their projects were public sector projects.
  • Encouraging new forms of learning and active citizenship
  • Creating an environment for new forms of collaboration between public and private organisations, private and private organisations, etc.

Cape Town WDC 2014 will now form part of a community of WDC cities who share knowledge and experience which will also add value to the City of Cape Town in 2014 and beyond.

Research reports relating to this discussion:

Coverage from the event:  Re-build, re-position and re-connect Cape Town for inclusive economic growth – Cape Business News, 28 Feb

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