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Imagine you are the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Infrastructure in a rapidly developing middle-income country in the year 2025. Your key priority in the next ten months is to develop a comprehensive policy framework for how the recently elected government has to facilitate and manage emerging ‘secondary cities’. Such cities will be the main engines of economic growth in the years to come and will house over 80 per cent of your country’s population before 2050, half of which currently lives in rural areas in traditional and sometimes backward communities. Not only will millions of citizens move to these emerging urban areas, either temporarily or permanently – these areas are also expected to attract large numbers of blue collar and white collar workers from neighbouring countries. In addition, your minister has tasked you to incorporate the latest thinking on ‘smart’ cities. He urged you to be as ambitious and bold as possible in your proposals for leveraging the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence in driverless cars, digitally managed smart and ‘green’ electricity grids, use of cloud computing and dashboard technologies in setting up citizen registers and service delivery frameworks, and robotic technology in designing housing projects for the elderly and vulnerable. He’s made it clear that key international and regional players and financiers such as the World Bank, UNDP, New Development Bank (NDB), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are eager to assist in the long-term development of these smart cities, provided your policy framework proves viable and sustainable over time. These financiers want to showcase their role in upgrading urban environments in a developing country.
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