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Welcome to the second in our series of SmartCitiesWorld City Profiles, our editorial channel that explores the world’s leading cities and their strategies to achieve smart living
With the world’s population expected to reach 10bn by 2056 – 7bn of whom will live in urban areas – learning how to live smartly is not an option for cities, it is a necessity. For urban administrators, this unprecedented growth – accompanied by exponential technological change – presents a myriad of challenges, big and small, social and economic, human and technological, logistical and environmental.
The purpose of this series is to explore individual cities, identify their particularly pressing challenges and examine how they are using technological innovation to manage them. These profiles are not frozen in time – they are dynamic, being updated, as and when new initiatives, innovations and policies are introduced.
In this edition, we focus on Moscow, which celebrated the 870th anniversary of its official founding in last month (September 2017). The challenge for Moscow’s Mayor Sergey Sobyanin and his government is to preserve the essential character of one of the world’s most charismatic capitals while ensuring that it meets citizens’ needs in the 21st century. This task is made more difficult by the relentless flow of Russians into the city – the average wage in the capital is almost double the national average. Between 2002 and 2010, while Russia’s population decreased by 1.2 per cent, Moscow’s grew by 10.9 per cent.
Yet Sobyanin’s government cannot be faulted for lack of ambition. It has pioneered e-government, making public services digitally available to the citizenry, has continued to develop public transport as it seeks to ease traffic congestion, is investing in technology to transform the city’s classrooms and is embarked on a massive, albeit controversial, plan to replenish at least a tenth of the city’s housing stock.
Yet in a time of digital disruption, the city also needs to develop an ecosystem for innovation – what might be glibly called ‘Silicon Moscow’. Despite backing – political and financial – from the national and city government, the effort to develop a more entrepreneurial high-tech sector has not progressed as well as was originally hoped.
That said, despite Western sanctions and fluctuating interest from venture capitalists, the current prevailing mood among Moscow’s start-ups is of cautious optimism.
Moscow was, is and always will be a city of paradoxes. As American novelist Daniel Silva said: “You trip over history at every turn in Moscow. It’s a city of enormous contradictions. Within a few yards of Lenin’s Tomb you find some of the most expensive shopping in the world.” The Russian capital has been famed for its iconic architecture since the 16th century.
In the 21st century, the government would like Moscow to also be known as one of the smartest cities in which to live.