Building Cities of the Future (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Fithra Faisal Hastiadi, S.E., MSE., M.A

Researcher at Institute for Sustainable Development in Indonesia (ISDI)

Alumnus of Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program (AILP)

Faculty Member of FEB UI (University of Indonesia’s School of Economics and Business)


Have you read Gulliver’s Travels? In one of his voyages, Gulliver finds himself in the land of Lilliput. In this country, the physical difference between Gulliver and the people of the Lilliput country is apparent: Gulliver becomes giant among tiny Lilliputians. Of course, Gulliver’s world will never exist in reality, but in the context of inequality, the cities of the future could become Gulliver’s worlds if the policy fragmentation firmly takes side with the well-off; not an ideal situation indeed. The cities of the future are formed with established and fair planning, which is impartial yet integrates with the common people’s needs.


Referring to the data from World Urbanization Prospects, currently 54 percent of the world’s population is projected to reside in urban area and in 2050 the proportion will reach 70 percent. In particular, ninety percent of the city’s largest population growth comes from Asian and African nations. Presently, 70 percent of world’s GDP come from the cities and the numbers continue to rise by 90 percent in 2050. Therefore, a wise urban management will help shape the future of the world. How will this draw the picture of future Indonesia? Will the nation be better or even transformed into a Gulliver’s world?


In 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos ordained the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution in which the development of digital technology becomes the leader. Consequently, the city of the future will certainly not be separated from the digital development and disruption. Before far imagining how to move forward, let us take a lookback in history. In 1933, the Athens Charter has in fact provided clues as to how to form an ideal city. In the Charter, we learn that a city must have dominant green spaces, have a place to engage in creative and cultural activities, and create comfortable pedestrian walks, along with wide and clear routes. Interestingly, these principles seem to be timeless, remain very relevant, yet definitely with wide array of challenges.


In his 8 Mighty Megatrends, Anders Lindgren highlights some of the biggest challenges for cities in the future. These challenges include population boom, rapid urbanization, ferocious consumption, technology rush, digital transformation, enlarged global connectedness, environmental degradation, and increasing wealth inequality. These challenges, if not tamed will only culminate in two possibilities: Gulliver’s world or Skynet world. I have briefly explained what the Gulliver world is, but what about Skynet? I will not explain it at length since those who do not know can simply learn it by watching the Terminator trilogy. Essentially, in the future, it is possible that human functions will be replaced by machines or, in other terms, capital-intensive. With the evolving digital disruption, how will Indonesia become? How will the cities become in the future? What will be the fate of our workers? Will machines replace them?


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Dr. Fithra Faisal Hastiadi, S.E., MSE., M.A Staff ahli Dekan Bidang Riset fakultas ekonomi dan bisnis Universitas Indonesia
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