The urban metropolises of our planet are home to an abundance of stories. They are home to stories of wealth, of innovation, and of architectural marvels. They are home, too, to stories of inequality, inequity and of urban divides – places where one’s income determines the quality of the spatial environment around them. Within these stories has developed an increasing advocation for making cities “smarter”, the goal being to use data and digital technology to build more efficient and convenient urban environments.
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Imagine having a blank canvas on which to master-plan a brand new city; drawing its roads, homes, commerces, and public spaces on a fresh slate and crafting its unique urban identity. Every urban planner has fantasized about designing a city from scratch and luckily for some, this dream is morphing into concrete opportunities.
Over the last two decades, new, master-planned cities have emerged from the ground up at an unprecedented scale, the majority of which have been created in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, with currently over 150 new cities in the making. This new type of urban development has shown to be particularly seductive in emerging markets, where they are sold as key parts of the strategy to leapfrog from agriculture and resource-based systems to knowledge economies by attracting foreign capital and boosting economic growth.