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Jakarta Post

Indonesia must seize the urban moment

  • John Rossant and Mathieu Lefevre

    The Jakarta Post

PARIS   /   Wed, November 5, 2014   /  08:46 am

President Joko Widodo faces multiple challenges as he begins his mandate. One area that is of absolutely critical importance is making sure that 21st century Indonesian cities become more livable, sustainable and dynamic.

Given the new President'€™s background, first as mayor of Surakarta and then as governor of Jakarta, he surely understands the importance of making Indonesia'€™s cities work better.

Within the next decade, after all, the total urban population of Indonesia is destined to reach 183 million people '€” up from 120 million today. In other words, over the next 10 years, the equivalent of two greater Jakartas or six New Yorks will have to be planned and built.

This is a reflection of what is happening elsewhere around the world, as populations move to cities with unprecedented speed.

By 2050 '€” less than one human generation from now '€” an additional 2.5 billion people will become city-dwellers. This enormous demographic shift to cities around the world, this '€œurban moment'€, is leading to a wave of investment in urban services and infrastructure on a scale we have never seen. Coupled with new technological possibilities, this presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to shape a better world for future generations.

The importance of capitalizing on the enormous promise of cities during this '€œurban moment'€ will be the subject of the New Cities Summit which will take place in Jakarta, from 9 to 11 June, 2015.

The Summit is organized by the New Cities Foundation and the City of Jakarta and brings together close to one thousand high-level participants from a range of disciplines including politics, technology, finance, energy, infrastructure, architecture and design, the arts and the media to shape this crucial agenda and find solutions that work.

Indonesia and Jakarta can be '€” and should be '€” world leaders in new thinking about cities. Few things are more important. The state of the global environment, for one, calls for more resolute action and better stewardship of our natural resources '€” and resilient and sustainable cities can truly lead the way.

In many global regions the economy is stuttering, failing to create enough fair-paying jobs. Here too, cities offer new opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to create new models from which the business giants of tomorrow will emerge.

Technology is driving innovation everywhere, and yet it must deliver on its promise in more sustainable and meaningful ways. Cities are where these promises can be made real.

It is thus fitting that the New Cities Summit is coming to Jakarta. Much of this urban story is playing out in Asia, which is already home to over half the world'€™s urban population. Jakarta is rapidly emerging as one of the great world cities boasting impressive economic growth and is, in some key areas, a thriving hotbed of entrepreneurship.

But, like all megacities, Jakarta faces serious challenges including glacially-slow traffic and the risks associated with flooding. We must seize this urban moment by placing cities at the heart of our agenda of growth and development in Indonesia and across the world.

President Widodo can hope to capitalize on Indonesians'€™ sincere desire to rise above politics as usual, to bring urban life and urban infrastructure into the 21st century.

His landmark victory represents how Indonesians came together at such a critically important time as their country, with all its amazing demographics and extraordinary assets, finally comes out on the world-stage.

This is Indonesia'€™s moment. This is Jakarta'€™s moment.


John Rossant is the founder and chairman and Mathieu Lefevre is the executive director of the New Cities Foundation, a global non-profit organization working to improve the world'€™s cities.

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