Cities around the world are growing at a rapid pace with no sign of slowing down. More than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, which is estimated to increase to 70 percent of the global population, or more than 6 billion by 2050. The speed of urban migration to cities poses immense challenges for city governments worldwide, as many must deal with aging infrastructure and the need to find additional resources to provide health and social services to expanding populations.
To address these urban challenges, the city of Medellin, Colombia is hosting the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) this week, where I’m pleased to announce UN-Habitat’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Microsoft CityNext, which leverages the expertise of both organizations to empower governments, businesses and citizens to drive change across their cities to meet the needs of the growing populations. Technology – from social media to cloud services to big data – is rapidly changing how cities function, develop and prosper.
This year at WUF7, nearly 20,000 attendees from government, academia, non-governmental organizations, financial institutions and the private sector representing 164 countries are gathering to discuss the conference theme, “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life.” Conversations between attendees will center on the future of building sustainable cities from three perspectives: urban planning and design; urban economy; and urban land legislation and governance.
Together with Microsoft CityNext, we will focus on improving access to data across member states through enhanced utilization of information and communication technology (ICT), which will improve participatory and transparent decision making leading to safer, healthier and more efficient cities.
Through the partnership, Microsoft CityNext will help us to better interpret, analyze and share urban data and information in our Global Urban Observatory database. Through the use of cloud services we aim to help member states assist their cities in significantly reducing costs, enhancing services, improving operations and accelerating opportunities for all citizens.
UN-Habitat estimates that there are more than 750 million living in urban areas without adequate shelter and basic services. At UN-Habitat, we are working to overcome these issues and achieve a vision of cities that optimize the urban advantage; cities in which people worldwide have access to the resources and services they need to thrive in their communities.
To achieve urban equity in the development of cities worldwide, innovative technology solutions that provide the ability to connect citizens, business and government alike are critical. Furthermore, I believe that technology can help cities to transform their operations and infrastructures while reducing costs and environmental damage, and increasing efficiencies. Through collaborative efforts with partners, we can help cities to implement advanced solutions that make a real impact on the lives of their urban residents.
By harnessing the power of technology, we hope to deliver real impact with Microsoft toward building vibrant and dynamic cities that become healthier, safer and more sustainable places for all to live.