Societies must be rebuilt in a way that safeguards our health and our economy and networks and knowledge sharing will be essential in building in robust structures to defend against future shocks.
Coronavirus isn’t disappearing just because you’re bored. Variations on that have increasingly appeared on my Twitter timeline in response to the fatigue with lockdowns having spread through Europe and elsewhere. Protesting a lockdown is a dangerous and shortsighted attitude to have but one we will likely see more of in the coming months, especially if there is a second wave of coronavirus.
It’s crazy to even be typing this but protests are fruitless against a virus. What will be critical is societies rebuilding in a way that safeguards our health and our economy. I recently spoke to Lauren Sorkin, the acting general director of the Global Resilient Cities Network, which has launched an initiative to help cities share knowledge and expertise, and partner with each other in the recovery planning process. It’s an ambitious project, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank, and it is these kinds of networks that will be essential in building in robust structures to defend against future waves of coronavirus or other pandemics.
The implications of coronavirus are multifaceted. I refer in my article to a means of keeping citizens cool as one challenge facing a city in the coronavirus era that quickly spirals into others. To take another example, how do you ensure social distancing on public transport going forward? Greater numbers of buses or trains with fewer passengers will not be cost-effective.
Encouraging working from home will leave businesses already under considerable financial pressure paying for empty buildings. Implementing dedicated cycle lanes, which I wrote about in last week’s newsletter, is something that would increase public health but takes time to build and may not be effective in a sprawling city.
Sorkin says cities can’t focus on one area in particular as part of their coronavirus response. The interconnectedness of cities, one of the most exciting things about living in one, means the problems in one part can easily seep into another. She argues a holistic approach is necessary to make cities healthier, safer and more sustainable.
One knock-on effect, she suggests, could be humanising the smart city by delivering citizen-specific solutions according to their needs. There continues to be scepticism in some quarters about smart cities, with privacy a common concern, but coronavirus may force cities to focus on what’s important.
We have been exploring the implications of the coronavirus on SmartCitiesWorld for some time but my interview with Lauren is the first in our Covid Effect series. In addition to the latest news on how cities are responding to the crisis, we’ll be going in-depth by publishing interviews, analysis and opinion about the ways cities are coping with and responding to the pandemic, and building for resilient future.
If you are leading an effort to change how your city operates in the wake of the pandemic or have opinions on what cities need to do to transform further, I want to hear from you.
What I’m reading