• Phil Todd

Population demographics: a wakeup call for Smart City strategy

Changing demographics

Smart City planning is often built around IT, technology capabilities and business cases. But the recent wake-up call about changing population demographics should be a wake-up call to smart city strategy.


Population projections show significant ageing in populations in many countries. This has been known for some time but recent data has shown this in pretty stark relief. In 2015 around 12% of the global population was aged 60+. By 2030 this will have risen to 21%.


In parallel, there are declines in population growth in many countries due to changes in birth rates. The overall projected situation of course varies country by country but the impact on cities over the next 50 to 100 years is likely to be dramatic. Many countries will see significant population declines; only some few will see stable or increasing populations.


Smart city strategy

But what does this mean for cities, and for smart city planning? Can you create a strategy to allow your cities to thrive? City planners need to understand how their specific population demographics is likely to change. It’s not just about planning to cope with an ageing population but seeking to avoid the ‘hollowing out’ of cities as the older population inevitably declines.


This means thinking about pro-actively making the city an attractive place to live and work for a wider set of age ranges, which in turn means thinking about jobs and accommodation.


Smart strategy therefore needs to understand how smart applications and solutions can contribute to making a city attractive and successful in the longer term. Why now? Because even small smart projects can take several years to develop and implement. And larger infrastructure projects that may need to dovetail into a smart strategy can take decades from feasibility to completion.


6 Actions points

Cities should do plan now in terms of:


1. Understanding the population changes likely to impact your city. Implement desk research to gather data.

2. Decide what sort of city do you want in 20 years’ time. Be proactive, research and consider a wide range of strategic approaches that could achieve your objectives for the city.

3. Create a Centre of Excellence. Place the citizen at the centre. Avoid vanity applications with limited impact, use the Centre of Excellence to co-ordinate strategy and smart solutions.

4. Connectivity of smart solutions will become an increasingly critical component. IoT and smart connectivity will need to be

5. Research the specific set of smart solutions that will really make a difference to achieving the city strategy:

  • o Solutions that are directly relevant to supporting a changing and ageing population.

  • o Solutions that are directly relevant to supporting new industries and employment opportunities.

6. Generate a Smart Virtuous Circle. Implement solutions that create an inclusive and integrated working and living environment; solutions that successfully support the city objectives and drive quality of work and living to make the city even more attractive.

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