- Greater investments in urban resilience strategies are key for cities to recover from the effects of the new coronavirus while simultaneously grappling with existing threats and future risks, according to a report by ABI Research.
- The report knocked cities worldwide for being unprepared to respond to the pandemic. Cities should "finally lose their innocence and naive 'nothing can happen to us' beliefs and adopt responsible attitudes toward resilience," the authors wrote.
- Investing in new technologies will be a "critical tool in the war against the unexpected," according to the report. The use of robotics for deliveries and transportation will be key, in addition to making use of the sharing economy to find capacity for housing, mobility and freight during emergencies.
ABI gave many cities credit for becoming "acutely aware" of the need to be more resilient, but overall said cities were "woefully unprepared" for a pandemic like coronavirus despite existing investments and efforts. Cities risk being similarly unprepared for future incidents like extreme weather events that have become more intense with the growing effects of climate change, according to the report.
The cities that respond and recover most effectively to the coronavirus pandemic will be the cities that have invested resources and time into building back stronger in all areas of their society and infrastructure, according to resiliency experts.
"It's those communities with strong networks, with good social capital, with solid infrastructure, diverse economies, good governance with lots of stakeholders at the table," Michael Berkowitz, founding principal at the Resilient Cities Catalyst, told Smart Cities Dive in an interview last week. "It's those communities that will do better when this is all said and done."
ABI highlighted some positive examples of how cities are using technology to improve resilience in the face of the coronavirus. The group cited China, which used drones to transport medical samples and other materials between hospitals which reduced the risk of further infection. The United States is in the relatively early stages of experimenting with similar efforts using delivery drones.
However, the report said far too many cities have been caught flat-footed by the pandemic despite early warning signs.
"To date, cities, countries, and even the European Union (EU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to improvise and decide on the fly how to cope with the rapidly spreading virus, resulting in disjointed and inconsistent measures varying widely between countries and regions," the report reads. "Stocks of face masks were largely insufficient. Hospitals had to very creative to cope with the exploding streams of patients."
As the outbreak becomes controlled and cities get back to normal — even if that is months in the future — it will be key to learn lessons, especially the need for various levels of government to work together closely, Berkowitz said.
"It's about all those levels and scales [of government] functioning together, and one of the things that I've really been impressed with, both in good and bad ways, is how governors and mayors, in particular governors, have had a very strong role in this crisis because of the nature of the scale," he said.
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