Photo credits: Jorge Amores
Stadtluft macht frei. “The air of the city liberates.” With this 11th-century German proverb, the father of Management, Peter Drucker (2002), summed up the process of urbanization on a global scale, which he anticipated early, and which he designated as the “new dominant environment” (p.217).
Indeed, the statistics confirm the global trend towards urbanization (United Nations, 2018). To illustrate what has been said: in 1950, 29.6% of the world population lived in cities while in 2020 it will be 56.2% and by 2050 it will reach 68.4%. South America also reflects this pattern, but still more sharply: in 1950, 42.7% of South Americans resided in cities. Next year, it will be 84.6%, and in 2050, 90,1%; exceeding in that year, the urbanization percentages of Western Europe (87%) and the USA (89.2%).
Considering the advantages of the city order in relation to the reality of rural life, Drucker said that “everywhere, those who live in the countryside do not see the time to move to the city, even when there is no work or housing for them.” (p.216) Hence, the effects of urbanization are quickly perceived, on the one hand, as agglomeration and scarcity, but also, as more wealth and opportunities; that is, a vast black and white that extends to our feet.
As referred by the author of the “General Theory of Cities” and complexity scientist, Geoffrey West (2017): by doubling the size of a city, insecurity, illness and poverty are systematically increased by 15%, but with the same percentage appear wealth, creativity and well-being (p 483). And the latter is, probably, the promise that keeps people coming.
But there is more. Due to the agglomeration, -according to West-, cities are also more sustainable and efficient, since by doubling their size, a 15% saving is obtained in the need for resources for their support (which indicates that for its operation it is not necessary doubling the energy, gas, service networks, etc.) and these are the savings, which make the big cities attractive for the generation of wealth.
Even when the mathematical reasoning and the very theory of the West were abstract, we all intuited that cities are the most appropriate space for human life. This is what the Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater (2004) describes when he says that: “the jungle, the sea, the deserts also have their laws, their own way of functioning but they are not at our service and often they can be hostile or dangerous, even lethal. “(pp. 22 and 23).
For the reasons mentioned, we are in the presence of the “Triumph of the city”, as expressed by the urban economist Edward Glaeser (2011), who believes that cities are our greatest creation, which also makes us “Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. “
Drucker, P (2002). Management in the future society. Bogotá: Grupo Editorial Norma. Glaeser E. (2011). The triumph of cities. How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer,
Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Mexico City: Taurus.
Savater F. (2004). Politics for Amador. Barcelona: Ariel.
United Nations (2018). World Urbanization Prospects 2018. At https://population.un.org/wup/Download/ Retrieved on April 29, 2019. 20h16.
West G. (2017). Scale The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovations, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life, In Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. New York: Penguin Press.
Xavier Sanchez is an Ecuadorian economist. He studied National Defense and International Economic Relations in Argentina. Analyzing the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution applied to military industry and national defense, he landed in the “smart cities”. Nevertheless, his passion for cities and, especially, for Quito City is due to the fact that he began his working life at the capital city’s municipal administration, to which, after having made a long journey in several governmental and private organizations, he returned to work a short time ago.
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My name is Xavier, I am Latacungueño, which means I was born in Latacunga, a small town in the middle of the Andean mountains of Ecuador. When I was seventeen, I moved to Quito with my family, my parents being willing to give their children access to a better education. A quite common move in Latin American countries, where migration to large cities occurs permanently due to the lack, or sometimes, bad quality of services in most of its geographies.
At the beginning of the year, I was studying the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution applied to military industry and national defense when, suddenly, driven by the same interest in technologies, I started the IGLUS MOOC about Smart Cities. I liked its format, the dynamism of Prof. Finger and the topic filled me with passion. So, I was already writing a case study without realizing it, which the IGLUS team published few weeks ago.
Another great opportunity was recently given to me: writing a series of blog posts, to be published every two weeks, about cities, their challenges and the capacity of digital technologies to make them more efficient, resilient, human and inclusive. Through a Latin American perspective, I will describe the way those technologies are articulated to improve infrastructure and create new and better services for citizens.