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Social, environmental, political, and economic issues require progressive, technological, and constant solutions. The city and the urban territory reflect all of these challenges in a close and concrete microcosm.

Urban and suburban scenarios must respond to human and environmental needs by addressing several issues, such as the repercussions of social and economic inequalities, the right to health and happiness, the marginalization policies, and the sustainability of the system. But what are the best adaptation strategies? And which of these instances must be met first? These are only two of the many questions that need to be addressed. Furthermore, social and economic policies indicate the guidelines, but without an efficient application and territorial diffusion, they could never be effective.

As urban populations continue to expand and citizens’ expectations grow, the development of smart cities that are enabled, powered, and integrated by digital technologies is going to be one of the main issues of societies worldwide in the 21st century. Cities are an essential meeting and exchange point for contemporary society. The interconnections between urban, social, environmental, and food policies are the keys to decode the lines of development that involve urban settlements and surrounding metropolitan areas, but also the rural ones. The “human city” is configured as a theater for the implementation of governance policies for resources and common spaces; the citizens, their well-being, and their development are the focal point. On this matter, the design of a food system truly respondent to both the needs of the most demanding consumers–in terms of quality–and to a growing need for sustainability is fundamental. The food emergency that has been addressed in several real situations, caused by the COVID-19 emergency, is a concrete example of the need for an integrated urban system.

The study of urban and regional context is necessary to make up for the shortcomings of social and economic policies, in order to decrease the extent of social conflict, and to increase the chances of a peaceful and collaborative integration. Urbanization is expected to raise significantly in the coming years; this trend may allow a new wave of growth based on innovation only if this growth will be sustainable and will not exacerbate already precarious social balances.

In countless countries, the everyday lives of the citizens are being made easier, more fulfilling, and more secure by services enabled by digital technologies, that previously were not even imaginable. It is forecasted that the global smart cities market size will reach USD 463.9 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 24.7% from 2020 to 2027.

Smart cities address a diverse set of problems, such as efficient transportation, smart and enhanced buildings and homes, optimum energy utilization, and better administrative services. The increasing adoption of novel technologies to help the management of cities in the future is a major catalyst for the market growth.

A multidisciplinary dimension appears to be the best lens with which to focus on and deal with problems related to the urban structure. Too often, instances with numerous and differentiated implications have been approached with pure sectorial and technical mindsets. Nearly always, these solutions fail because they are unsuitable for fluid problems that continuously evolve.

A mix of progress-oriented digital mindsets and traditional human mentality is surely the best way to bring the cities of tomorrow closer to today.

Giulia Urbinati