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Smaller Cities: Setting the Pace for the Next Wave of Innovation and Growth

It's said that technology is "making the world smaller," and while that may be true, the world's cities are growing at an astonishing rate.

By the year 2050, nearly 75% of the world's population will reside in urban areas, and trends show that staggering population growth will impact cities on a global scale. The most significant of this urban overcrowding is happening in countries where the economies are booming. In response, governments of today's emerging economies will need to find new and efficient ways of accommodating urban growth and better managing citizens' needs. They will look for smarter cities.

Hyper-Growth Economies Embracing Innovative Thinking for Growth

To address this rapid population growth, and get out ahead of the potential issues that come from overcrowding, small to mid-size cities in the world's emerging economies have been adopting new technology solutions to manage everything from planning energy grids, to building more efficient buildings and integrating emergency response agencies. By building the infrastructure to give local businesses the technology they need, these smaller cities have been able to fast track innovative ideas while harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit inherent in a smaller city.

We've been working with many smaller cities emerging as innovation hubs in growth economies around the world, to help get the most advanced and efficient infrastructure in place. For example, Kochi, one of the smaller but fast growing cities in India has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years due to the development of tourism, manufacturing, shipbuilding, seafood and spices exports, and IT industries. IBM has been working with clients in the region to provide advanced technologies and services to aid their business growth and bring new efficiencies.

We've also been engaged with Manappuram Finance, one of India's largest listed and highest credit rated gold loan company, to help drive transformation throughout its entire IT infrastructure. This will help Manappuram Finance differentiate its service to customers and gain market share in a highly commoditized market,

We are also finding there is significant opportunity for growth in India, an emerging market in terms of maximum opportunity for rapid growth, next to China. We aim to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit in India by providing innovative and efficient technological resources for local startups and teaming up with local governments to install data analytics technologies and build new infrastructure. We recently announced the opening of a branch office in Ludhiana, Punjab in Northern India, as part of the company's continued geographic expansion across India/South Asia.

India is also a great example of how managing population growth by directing new city-dwellers away from the massive urban centers and out to smaller cities can help continue the nation's economic successes. By steering population overflow into smaller cities built with structures that feature efficient technologies, the country is able to avoid the challenge of updating and adapting the existing, and often aging, infrastructure of its major cities to accommodate growing populations. These smaller smarter cities run on systems that are effective, environmentally secure and allow city officials to monitor dozens of data feeds, in order to anticipate the community's needs.

Building Smarter Cities and Growing Local Business Go Hand in Hand

The lifeblood of any community is a strong entrepreneurial spirit and encouraging growth in smaller cities will in turn grow local businesses. Because of their scale, governments of smaller cities have a natural ability to personally interact and align with local businesses, and vice versa. By employing advanced analytics to uncover trends and inefficiencies, businesses are able to better understand their customers and cities can better anticipate public trends. Additionally, managing and analyzing data helps supply targeted public-private solutions to local problems and allows smaller cities to be better prepared to meet the challenges of growth and urbanization, as well as foster the continued growth of an already strong entrepreneurial spirit.

By Sriram Rajan, Territory Executive – South, IBM General Business, India/South Asia