Josephine d'Allant's blog

Site Visit to Alam Sutera

The last day of the New Cities Summit included a visit to Alam Sutera, a residential and commercial development zone 15 km outside Jakarta. When the development started in 1994, the area was considered remote, but due to Jakarta's dramatic expansion and the toll road access that opened in 2009, Alam Sutera is now a bustling town of its own. Alam Sutera includes high-end housing "clusters," mid-range apartment buildings, a sports center, a hospital, a school, and numerous stores and malls, including Indonesia's first IKEA and the largest Ace Hardware in the world. Read more.

Jakarta Urban Challenge winners announced

The Jakarta Urban Challenge is "a USD $20,000 contest championing the most effective solutions to mobility and traffic problems in Jakarta, one of the world’s most congested cities." Organized by the New Cities Foundation and Connect4Climate, the competition opened on March 16th and ended on April 30th, 2015, receiving 226 proposals. Through a rigorous judging process, the following three finalists were selected. Read more.

Muhammad Yunus: Redesign economics to redesign the world

Muhammad Yunus' keynote speech was one of the main highlights of the New Cities Summit. His speech was about the concept of a social business, which he defines as a non-dividend company working to solve a human problem. One of the reasons Professor Yunus finds this model compelling is that the money invested is returned and can then be reused, whereas with a charity, the money can only be used once. Social businesses are also an important answer to unemployment: Professor Yunus counsels young people to become entrepreneurs instead of seeking jobs. Read more.

Water solutions for the 21st century

Nick Clark, Environmental Editor at Al Jazeera English started this discussion by asking each panelist to describe some of the main urban water challenges in each of their local contexts. Carla May Berina-Kim, the Executive Director of the Manila Water Foundation, explained that in Manila, illegal water connections lead to quality issues, and that while water coverage is fairly good, only a third of the city has coverage when it comes to sewage. Lack of sewage infrastructure — the result of poor urban planning — is a main cause. Koen Broersma, a Consultant of Urban Water Management at Royal HaskoningDHV described the situation here in Jakarta: water supply is lacking, causing residents to use wells and pumps, which then causes subsidence (land sinking) and flooding. Untreated wastewater flooding to the sea is another major concern. Roch Cheroux, the CEO South East Asia at Suez Environnement explained that in Australia, the driest continent, lack of water is a challenge, as is affordability — utilities are not run efficiently, so costs are high. Also, Australia’s water infrastructure is old, and renewing it would be costly. Finally, Aziza Chaouni, Founding Principal at Aziza Chaouni Projects, indicated that in Morocco, too, lack of water is an issue — especially since agriculture, a major source of income for Moroccans, requires heavy water use. Read more.

Greg Lindsay — The Urban Moment

The New Cities Summit in Jakarta started with a keynote presentation by Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow, Mobility Initiative at the New Cities Foundation. Mr. Lindsay emphasized the fact that the urban century is largely an Asian phenomenon, and that it is just getting started: many Asian countries such as India and Vietnam still have urbanization rates well below 50 percent. However this is changing quickly — within a few decades, the landmass of cities worldwide will triple, representing an astounding acceleration of urbanization. Mr. Lindsay represented this challenge of urbanization as a "wicked problem," meaning that it cannot be solved, just managed. Mr. Lindsay concluded by highlighting a number of important challenges facing cities, notably transportation. He cited Mitchell L. Moss's study showing that in New York City, transportation is the primary factor determining access to job opportunities: "Having a transit card is more important than having a college education."

Welcome to the New Cities Summit!

Hello from the New Cities Summit conference in Jakarta, Indonesia! This week, Josephine d'Allant and Widya Anggraini of the team will be blogging live from Jakarta to bring you the latest from the New Cities Summit, which runs from 9-11 June, 2015. The New Cities Summit, organized by the New Cities Foundation, is the leading global event on the future of cities. Watch this space all this week for dispatches, reports, ideas, and insights from the sessions here in Jakarta!

Alain Bertaud on "Top Down Design vs. Spontaneous Order: Impact on Housing Affordability"

The spatial structure of large cities is a mix of top-down design and spontaneous order determined by the market. In his talk at the Cities and Development conference, Alain Bertaud argued that although top-down design is indispensable for establishing city-wide primary infrastructure, the city planners' urge to control often goes too far. At the neighborhood level, he explained, cities need spontaneity. Read more.

Edward Glaeser: "Cities in the Developing World"

In his talk on "Cities in the Developing World," Edward Glaeser started by arguing that cities do not make people poor, but rather attract poor people who previously lived in more rural areas. Today, the world’s poorest countries are urbanizing rapidly. This is a stark difference from richer countries in the Global North, which had comparatively more wealth before their respective historic periods of rapid urbanization. Glaeser suggested that one of the main explanations for this divergence is the state of the global agriculture industry. When western nations underwent urbanization in the 19th century, the global trade economy was relatively small. In order for large parts of the population to move to cities, a country’s agricultural industry had to already be well-developed enough to sustain the national population as fewer and fewer people worked on farms. A country needed to reach a certain level of wealth before urbanization could happen. Today, with a global economy in which food can be shipped all over the world, individual countries do not require a strong domestic agricultural industry in order for many people to move to cities, and so urbanization can occur in poorer contexts. Read more.

William Easterly and Laura Freschi on "A Long History of a Short Block"

William Easterly and Laura Freschi proposed a new approach to tackling the question of whether development flourishes under planned or spontaneous conditions. Rather than examining development at the nation-state level or city level, they zoomed in to a single New York City block: Greene Street, between Houston and Prince streets. Read more.

Paul Romer on "The Power of the Grid"

Professor Paul Romer started his talk by suggesting that the interventions we have come to associate with international development – like cash transfers, women's self-help groups, deworming, bed nets and better stoves – are not necessarily the big drivers of economic growth and development. These approaches did not play a role in the economic development of rich countries in Europe and North America, so why do we assume they will help countries in the Global South? Read more.