The future of the world is urban

metropols, cities, increasing world population, energy, green city, favelas, transport, managing city infrastructure

From 1950 to 1980 the number of people living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro alone increased from about 170,000 to more than 600,000, and by the early 21st century it was estimated that there were as many as 1,000 favelas there.

Given the rate of change, our world will be a very different place by 2040. More and more people are moving to cities.

How will billions of city-dwellers access what they need without putting intolerable strains on the planet?

How can we plan now for more sustainable ways of life in a radically different world? 

In this post you will find six advices for megacities (a population in excess of 10 million people)

For the first time more people live in cities than in the country side. This trend is set to intensify. Each month five million people are moving to cities. And when you consider that the world population grows by two billion by 2040, cities have to consider how to manage the city of the future. Especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

How do we manage these metropol cities? Forum for the Future, the FIA Foundation, Vodafone and EMBARQ, have developed four scenario’s that can help governments, companies and civil society organizations understanding the challenges of the future and start planning for sustainable city living.


All over the globe, cities need to start planning now to radically re-engineer their infrastructures to cope with much larger populations than they currently support. The good news is that engineering and technological innovations will transform urban living. In particular the way we communicate and share information, as the convergence of internet and mobile technology becomes a reality.

Expect mobile networks to extend beyond human communication; everything that could benefit from a wireless network is likely to have one; and connectivity will combine with energy, water management, transport and health as more services can be delivered online.

Climate change

Cities will have to deal with both the policy responses, such as more expensive carbon, and the physical impacts of changing weather patterns. Throughout human history we have built our major settlements on rivers, estuaries and coasts: the so called Delta cities. Sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms and floods are just some of the impacts cities will have to contend with.

6 advices

  1. Integrate
    Transport, urban planning, business, public services, energy and food supply can no longer be considered in isolation. Urban planners need to create integrated mobility systems that will provide people with choice, flexibility and seamless connectivity whether they are traveling from one place to another or accessing the things they need virtually.
  2. Make the poor a priority
    Mobility systems must work for rich and poor alike, to ensure everyone has access to goods, services and job opportunities. Cities already have many people on lower incomes and this trend will only increase. Tailored mobility solutions must be designed to meet their needs.
  3. Go beyond the car
    Current growth rates in car ownership are simply unsustainable: there are already one billion cars in the world, projected to grow to two billion within a few decades. Cities have to supply in alternative ways of getting around, designed for people, not cars to serve local communities and dense developments that prevent further sprawl, are easy to walk around, and provide access to key goods and services.
  4. Switch on to IT networks
    There is enormous potential for information technology to reduce the need for physical movement by enabling urban dwellers to access more and more services online. Using IT networks to connect and coordinate cars and public transport can also help reduce traffic congestion and accident risks.
  5. ‘Refuel’ the vehicles
    As oil becomes more scarce, expensive and a security risk, we will need to implement greater energy efficiency measures, as well as shift to powering our vehicles with renewable sources. We will need significant investment in battery and fuel technology to seize this opportunity and take alternative energy-powered, efficient vehicles to scale over the next few decades.
  6. Change people’s behavior
    Many of our future challenges are shaped by people’s values, behavior and preferences. Let’s go circular. Cities need to think about ways to influence mass behavior and social norms in positive ways to promote low-carbon, circular urban lifestyles. Future leading cities will plan today to influence lifestyles rather than simply relying on additional road infrastructure and modes of transport.

Link to the scenarios in the report 


Have you seen this?

Megacities, challenges for mayors, engineers and planners (dossier)

Smart Grid Energy Storage Systems (dossier)

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