BRICS Urbanisation Forum discusses digital divide and smart cities

The 3rd BRICS Urbanisation Forum happened from 14 to 16 September, in Visakhapatnam, India, with the theme ‘Building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions for urbanisation’.  Participants aimed to identify key issues of urbanization and make sure they are included on the global agenda of the BRICS. Inclusion, the right to shelter and the provision of sustainable housing and related services are key themes of the SDG agenda and they are particularly relevant to BRICS nations. A topic of interest was the development of smart cities. Various examples of smart urban growth models across the BRICS were discussed. Experts who participated in the meeting warned against an approach where cities become markets for new technological products instead of identifying the city’s problems and using technology to address them if needed. Alvaro de Olivera, a senior consultant to World Bank on Innovation, who represented Brazil at the meeting, assessed that the discussion about smart cities seems to be “too concerned with hardware rather than people”. There should be an emphasis on the human aspect. Closing the digital divide was regarded as key to achieving this smart future.