The Sino-German Urbanisation Partnership (SGUP) Project was invited to contribute to a session on urbanisation at a summer school co-organised by Tongji University and TU Berlin, on 13th September 2018. The students brainstormed project ideas to solve urban issues with technology and developed ideas for projects like Weather Resilient City App to create a platform to share climate-change impacts and weather information, and Self-driving capsules to relieve cities of traffic congestion.
The three-week summer school is to familiarise future professionals with Chinese culture, politics, economics and language. Here, SGUP introduced the students from interdisciplinary backgrounds, to urbanisation issues in China and Germany.
The SGUP team introduced the students to their focus areas of work, followed by a discussion on Smart Cities and the use of AI and Information Communication Technology (ICT) in German and Chinese cities. Through the interactive presentation, there were questions asked on China’s development strategy. The country is looking to develop more westward to relieve the pressure to some extent, of land and resources on the eastern belt. When speaking of Smart Cities in China, the students suggested that China needs to work on the basics alongside with high technology-based interventions. For example: using more solar-thermal based systems to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, prevent plastic packaging for drinking water by directing better water purification in main infrastructure systems, introduce more rental housing schemes to promote the functioning of China’s ghost cities, etc.
Following this, the students brainstormed in groups, on creating an app or program to solve an urban issue in a city of their choice. They identified an urban problem, outlined a technology-based intervention, the stakeholders, the financial model and the risks the project could face. This was followed by flash presentations and a feedback session.
Documentation of Student ideas
The students’ ideas and presentations brought up a number of questions to keep in mind when introducing ICT-based interventions. To state a few: is technology a means or end to solve urban issues today? How do we close the gaps in countries were digitalisation is limited? What priority should privacy considerations hold while designing interventions with technology?