3 Smart City Takeaways from National Geographic’s Event “Urban Expeditions: Exploring Sustainable City Solutions”

Screenshot 2017-06-14 10.31.47

At WDCEP, we believe that smart cities have the power to transform everyday life and create a strong economic environment for businesses. With this in mind, we were thrilled to attend National Geographic’s event “Urban Expeditions: Exploring Sustainable City Solutions” because we were able to gain insight into how local solutions can contribute to sustainable urbanization. Below are three top takeaways from this smart cities event.

1. Action is better than apathy  

Our planet currently faces issues with climate change, food supply, and population increases. In order to deal with these problems, leaders need enact sustainable change. This change should focus on the three pillars of sustainability: equity, environment, and economy. Robert Kunzig, Senior Environmental Editor of National Geographic Magazine kicked off the event by sharing the significance of aligning the pillars. In terms of businesses, those wanting to be successful in smart cities should implement innovative, green solutions that help people as well as the planet.  In terms of the public sector, the District released a comprehensive Sustainability Plan as a way to address all three pillars when tackling issues the city faces. Individuals can contribute to smart cities by increasing their awareness about sustainability. More importantly, individuals can devote their time, money, and knowledge toward promoting sustainable efforts. A smart city is more likely to develop if everyone is engaged and included in the conversation about the impacts of sustainability. Additionally, collaboration among different groups will allow for different perspectives and create solutions to emerge.

 

2. Sustainability is good business

Environmentalists and businesses don’t need to be at odds when it comes to creating more sustainable, smarter cities. The planet can be protected at the same time business is being promoted. For instance, a city could create green jobs by employing people to build green buildings, which in turn will reduce waste and create energy savings. With Big Data, it is now possible for businesses to clearly see the benefits that come from protecting the planet and understand that sustainability can contribute to success. An example of a local sustainable business is the energy provider Pepco, which provides reliable energy to people in DC and Maryland. One of Pepco’s sustainability initiatives is its Smart Grid. This innovative technology allows people to monitor their energy usage and adjust accordingly. By directly engaging its customers, Pepco lets individuals see the economic and environmental benefits that accompany their actions.

 

3. Become a lifelong learner

The rise of technology can cause disruptive change to an organization’s workforce. During a conversation between Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Magazine, and Gregory Hayes, Chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corporation, we learned how to best react to this change. As a way to remain relevant, people must become lifelong learners. This means that employees should be prepared to acquire new skills in order to adapt to new work scenarios. To employees this may seem like a daunting task. From the perspective of the employer, Mr. Hayes believes major corporations have an obligation to teach employees new skills. Additionally, he believes that governments can help fill in gaps by offsetting the costs of training and education. By training the workforce, businesses will protect their employees from disruptive change and be prepared to succeed in a smart city.

 

Workforce training in DC is a core focus. We’ve even just launched a program to support inclusive talent development called the Pathways Scholarship. Next scholarship, on smart cities is focused on training DC workers on smart city skills.  

 

Overall, creating a sustainable city is challenging, but leaders in both the private and public sector are prepared take action. Several organizations throughout DC are working to make the District a smart city. For instance, the DC’s incubator 1776 hosts a global competition called the Challenge Cup that prompts startups to solve complex problems by engaging with industry leaders. Another organization, Starship Technologies is revolutionizing food and package delivery in DC with its autonomous robots. With these DC organizations and many more in mind, we are optimistic that cities will solve pressing issues and create a smarter future.