Building the city of the future, today, in the developing world

Nairobi — the capital of Kenya — is growing at a tremendous pace. The population is about 4 million, and the city is growing at about 7 percent per year. Nairobi is the most prominent city in East Africa and the hub for the entire region. The city is brimming with innovation and entrepreneurship. For example, the mobile money platform MPESA was developed in Nairobi, and has transformed the business landscape not just in the region, but around the world. Read more.

Combining big data and crowdsourcing to build a smart city

When people think about smart cities, they usually think about futuristic infrastructures and buildings that automatically adapt to citizens' needs. Yet I would argue that the most important urban infrastructures are related to mobility, since without it, we wouldn't be able to move around, goods wouldn't be delivered, and the city would grind to a halt. At Snips, we capture and analyze massive amounts of urban data to better understand and predict how people interact with and move around their cities. Eventually, we hope cities will be able adapt to citizens rather than constraining them. Read more.

How smart parking makes way for smart cities

Data-backed decisions in our day-to-day lives are becoming more common and are helping us confidently make decisions to improve our lives. Real-time traffic lets us know the best route to take, or suggests we run that errand later so we ultimately don't waste time, gas... and patience. Apps like Gas Buddy tell us of local gas station prices so we know where to go to get the most bang for our buck. Fitness trackers like FitBit track, monitor, and alert us when we should move around, and help us reach our health and fitness goals by having easy and transparent access to our personal sleep and exercise data. Read more.

Let's empower citizens to recreate cities

Public space is a powerful emblem of the urban world, because it unites people, ideas and actions with a territory. Parks, city centers, and friendly pedestrian streets are the spaces where rich and poor, young and old can interact. Thus, if we want to have a right to the city, we must have a right to public space. Read more.

A connected commute is a better commute

All major cities of the world have commuting issues. Some extreme examples include a traffic jam stretching 200km in the congested city of São Paulo, and a 12 day long traffic jam once experienced by Beijing commuters. In other cities, the case may not be so extreme, but can't we all cite examples of where we have been held up, late for work or simply frustrated due to a traffic jam or delayed metro? The answer is, of course, yes. But what can we do to address this issue in cities around the world? Last year, the New Cities Foundation took on the challenge. Read more.

Participatory budgeting: eight things you should know

Africa Research Institute (ARI) answers questions about participatory budgeting, a type of direct democracy that enables citizens to determine how public money is spent in their communities. ARI has recently published research on the adoption of participatory budgeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital city. Civil society organisations have been crucial to the adoption of participatory budgeting in Cameroon; the report looks at the experience of one in particular, the Society of Booklovers. By way of introduction, here are eight things you should know about an exciting form of grassroots development. Read more.

Innovating in an urbanizing world: leading from the middle

David Weiss, President and CEO, Global Communities

Last month, I attended UN Habitat's World Urban Forum, the world's premier gathering on the subject of cities and our urban future. Every two years, stakeholders from across the globe come together at the Forum to examine the most pressing issues facing our rapidly urbanizing world. Over the next three decades, 2 billion people will be added to our planet and most of this growth will take place in cities in developing countries. So, for international development organizations like mine, Global Communities, being able to hear perspectives from the growing number of policy makers, foundations, private companies and city residents that travel to the Forum is an invaluable learning opportunity. Read more.

Frontier cities: forging paths for partnerships and learning

Governor Richard F. Celeste of Ohio

As the world urbanizes, cities are poised to take the lead on many global issues like climate change, economic development, and poverty reduction. And the world will increasingly look to cities to take the lead. In the face of stagnant international negotiations on climate change, for example, cities are taking the lead through groups like C40, a network of the world's megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Likewise, in an increasingly globalized economy, cities are investing in infrastructure and assets that maintain and attract companies in an effort to keep their competitive edge. Internationally, as the world urbanizes and government responsibilities decentralize in many countries today, the need to strengthen burgeoning local governments to play a wider role as community developers, as well as traditional service providers, is urgent. This "localization of development" presents an exciting opportunity to invest in city-to-city and peer-to-peer partnerships and networks. Read more.

Massive open online cities: can technology and democracy create revolutionary solutions from the bottom up?

Brian English, Director of Program Innovation, Global Communities

As an urban planner working in the field of international development, I have spent my career working with cities around the globe to solve problems, plan for their aspirations, and help them learn from other cities in the process. Recently, at Global Communities, we partnered with five cities across India and Ghana to improve slum conditions and livelihoods. During this time, I observed how revolutions in information and communication technology (ICT) are altering the entire ecosystem of connections that enable city stakeholders to access information, learn from each other, and engage in problem solving. This is inspiring and enabling a global movement to re-imagine how development solutions can be implemented with marginalized urban communities and how innovations can be propagated at the grass roots. Read more.

Over the hump: getting the green city movement to a tipping point

Steve Nicholas, Vice President, Institute for Sustainable Communities

When I became director of the City of Seattle's newly formed Office of Sustainability and Environment in 2000, there were just a handful of such positions in the US — all in places you'd expect: Portland, Oregon; Berkeley, California; Burlington, Vermont; and the like. Today, well over 1,000 communities have sustainability directors and programs in place, including many "unusual suspect" cities where the political waters are far less warm and inviting: Houston, Texas; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Dubuque, Iowa; and many others. As my co-authors and I showcase in The Guide to Greening Cities, a fast-growing array of urban leaders are realizing that they hold a key, if not the key, to meeting the urgent global challenges of climate disruption and unsustainable human development. Read more.