Young Voices: Visions of Another Urban World

With the outlook to the future, let's hear the young voices from both China and India.
by China India Dialogue
Nachiket Nishant

Technology Will be the Key

By Nachiket Nishant

Age: 26

Occupation: Head of Strategy and Research @ The Indian Iris

College major: M.A. in Politics, International Relations and Diplomacy

Place of birth: Patna, Bihar


Today, almost half of the world’s population resides in cities, and by 2050 it is projected 75 percent of the total population will live in cities. More the developing countries will economically prosper; more the demand for cities will increase. And according to experts, the time is ripe for designing smarter cities to accommodate ever growing population.


The technological advancement, especially the use of Internet of Things (IoT), in creating “smart” or “future” cities will increase along with digital governance. Mobility is a critical component of human growth in urban settlements, and technology empowers growth. So both are intertwined. Even, for a government, providing and sustaining a transport network is one of the important functions as it provides a platform for commerce and human interaction. The coming years will see a robust increase in efficient public transport, and simultaneously the demand for pedestrian and bicycle tracks will also increase. Driverless cars and buses, automotive pods and the use of drone technology in transport are few of the features which may start appearing in the coming 10 years.


The 9-5 job will probably be replaced by individual contract jobs. Already, the conceptualization of work is changing – Cisco, Google and other tech companies provide an option to work from home every Friday, and even on weekdays they are not required to work in office. And, the pattern shows that by 2020 companies will need to invest less in physical infrastructure.


The most challenging issues would be: affordable housing, preparing for demographic trends, and most importantly, a city where “life means life not just mere living”.


Both India and China have a futuristic policy for developing smart cities, but the latter is ahead in terms of implementation and technology. For instance, if someone visits a Chinese city called Zhenjiang in Jiangsu Province, now they will find many changes which show how Chinese smart cities may look like in future – appointment in a city hospital, nearest parking place, bicycles on rent, 4G wireless internet for riders in bus and many more. India also in 2014 announced the goal of 100 smart cities in coming 10 years. They are making progress, but the Chinese are ahead in implementing. Trends show that the use of technology in every aspect of city will tremendously increase.

Li Jie.

Cities of the Future

By Li Jie

Age: 26

Education: Postgraduate student in

Structural Engineering

Place of birth: Hohhot, Inner

Mongolia Autonomous Region

Place of residence: Tianjin



My imagination of future cities began with my understanding of individual buildings. American architect Louis Sullivan held that “form follows function.” That means the essential requirement for a single building should be based on its users’ primary demands for its functions. The principle also applies to the development of cities. Future cities are supposed to meet the needs of urbanites and make their lives as comfortable and convenient as possible. In the future, therefore, cities will be increasingly refined, instead of becoming larger and larger.


Every city will focus on its own functional zoning, and different cities will be connected more closely to one another. Meanwhile, less and less will one megacity integrate its various functions. Due to scarcity of land, cities will not expand limitlessly, but attempt to enhance usage efficiency of land. For instance, future cities may develop three-dimensional farming, so as to satisfy demands of ur- banites. The film Snowpiercer gives a vivid example: Every carriage of the train is not an individual system and varies in function, but when they are connected together, diverse demands of all passengers can be satisfied.


Along with changes in division of urban functions, residential areas of future cities will change accordingly: These will be built around working zones, so as to reduce commuting time and avoid “bedroom communities”; the boundaries between communities will gradually disappear, and urbanites will share green spaces; pedestrian and vehicle areas would be separate, with vegetation-covered spaces, as well as underground parking lots and driveways which directly connect to external, arterial roads; and, energy needs will be wholly met by locally generated solar power.

Imagined future cities in science fiction as well as near-future urban plans based on current technologies reflect the aspiration for better city life.


Abhinav Chandra Veluri

Sustainable Lifestyles

By Abhinav Chandra Veluri

Age: 25

Occupation: Strategist

College major: Civil Engineering

Place of birth: Hyderabad, India


With our current pattern of lifestyles, we need the infrastructure of a city to be designed for the city’s entire population. But with some well thought-out work schedules, the demand on the infrastructure could potentially be reduced to half. On regular weekdays, about 90 percent of the urban population is active only between 8 am to 10 pm. This means that the city’s infrastructure has to provide a place for work, transport, internet bandwidth, communication networks, etc. for almost the entire population for most part of this time. All this is left largely underutilized during the remaining 10 hours of a day.


By modifying the urban lifestyle, through dispersing the times we go to work, go out to watch a movie or to shop for our kid’s birthday, we can mitigate the space crunch and pollution levels in our city. As the city’s infrastructure now would only have to effectively handle about half of its population, we can save on construction material, labor and land usage. We would also require lesser bandwidth for connectivity. People for whom daylight is critical for work can of course be allotted the day time. The remaining part of the day can be allocated to the others considering their preference, working hours of their family members, type of work and working hours of people in their neighborhood so that public transport could be designed optimally.


An idling car uses 0.8-2.6 litres of fuel an hour. 1. One litre of gasoline (that weighs about 0.75 kg) produces about 2.3 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). 2. There are 2.5 million cars on the streets of Shanghai. 3. This means that if we can shave off one hour of idling time from 10 percent of these cars, we could save 200,000 litres of gasoline and reduce CO2 emissions by over 165 tons a day. This would result in an annual savings of US$ 66 million from fuel alone. One hour not spent on the road is one hour spent involved in value-adding activities like teaching your kids to play tennis, building better healthcare equipment or even going for a refreshing jog around the now-less-polluted city’s parks – activities on which it’s hard to put a price-tag on.


In an ideal world, we engineer our infrastructure to meet a certain demand. But we are soon reaching a stage where we would be maxing out our cities’ capacities.


Du He.

Safe, Better Future

By Du He

Age: 25

Occupation: Marketing Specialist at EIC Group

Place of birth: Jilin City, Jilin Province

Place of residence: Beijing



I don’t remember when I developed the habit of checking the traffic status from my home to workplace on the internet every morning before I decide when to set out. This helps me use spare time more efficiently. In future cities, I think, everyone’s commuting time will become more

controllable because customized services will make for more rational traffic flow, thus eradicating congestions that bother today’s urbanites. However, a new problem may emerge: whether urbanites can enjoy both convenient customized services and high-degree of information security?


Future cities will be primarily based on the development of information technology. Apart from intelligent facilities, future cities will also feature public participation in urban management and operation, which may cause diverse information security vulnerabilities. Cities will integrate resources from the government, financial institutions, hospitals, telecom service providers, and enterprises, and cloud computing will be widely used in urban management. Any security problem occurring in the process, such as data loss of cloud platforms and computer system break- down, will result in immeasurable loss to users and huge negative impacts on the entire urban system.


Therefore, information security of smart cities requires coordination of various systems, instead of a certain kind of technology or service. As the important participants and maintainers of the entire urban system, human beings themselves are the most complicated and unpredictable security risks. So, safeguarding information security in future cities is not only a matter of technological upgrade, but also depends upon aspects such as legislation, public awareness, and technical standards.


In a word, future cities will be people oriented. The ultimate purpose of any technology is making the environment more suitable for human life, providing as many opportunities as possible for human development, enabling people to communicate with each other more easily, and ensuring that everyone enjoys a safe, comfortable and convenient life. Therefore, customized services are inseparable for a high degree of information safety. I believe that city life will become safer and better in the future.