From the super-connected urban sprawl of Tokyo to the futuristic skyline of Dubai, digital acceleration had fast become an aspiration for many city authorities long before the Covid-19 crisis hit. The United Nations estimates that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. The pandemic has highlighted the need for accelerated digital city planning and greater communication with citizens for such population levels to be sustainable.
But Sidewalk Lab’s decision in May to abruptly end its Waterfront Toronto smart city project, citing economic pressures of the global pandemic, has prompted questions about whether other projects may follow suit – or whether city authorities will instead double down on digital investment to accommodate new ways of working and living as well as combating the post-pandemic economic fallout.