Mass Migration to Urban Centers Advances Urgency to Create Safe Cities

A new whitepaper published by IHS Markit is aimed at helping government officials and other key stakeholders understand the benefits and challenges of safe city projects.

LONDON – By 2030, it’s estimated that more than 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities, ushering in newfound challenges to urban infrastructure, resources, security procedures and emergency response systems.

This global migration – marking the first time in history that more people will live in cities than in rural areas – can be expected to improve living standards for once depressed populations, but will also be fraught with new kinds of threats and challenges. How urban centers meet these challenges will be critical to their success in the decades that follow.

The safe city concept has been developed to help government stakeholders, city mayors and law enforcement mitigate these demands. Leveraging the connectivity now found in core security and safety technologies, safe city solutions are helping city leaders to better protect their citizens from a range of threats including crime, terrorism and natural disasters, according to a new whitepaper by IHS Markit.

The whitepaper, authored by IHS Markit’s Thomas Lynch, director, safe cities, and Niall Jenkins, senior consultant, security, is aimed at helping government officials and other key stakeholders understand the benefits and challenges of safe city projects. Following are excerpts from the in-depth report:

What are the benefits of safe cities?

  • Government investment: measures the level of a government or city administration’s continued commitment to spending on safe city ICT equipment as well as the level of ICT competence, the police resource allocated to public safety and the coverage of physical security and critical communications equipment
  • Safety result: measures the level of crime, the risk to individuals and property from riots, protests, terrorism, and kidnapping as well as the public’s perception of crime and the police department’s ability to respond to events quickly and effectively
  • Social benefit: measures social benefits such as the ability to enjoy entertainment, leisure and sporting events safely, the public’s appreciation of the government and police force based on their response to security and whether talented employees are moving to the city
  • Economic benefit: measures economic benefits such as personal wealth and prosperity, spending on tourism and retail, employment rates, city investment and the risk and prevention of serious economic challenges happening in the short-term

The three investment stages of safe city projects

Government investment in safe cities can be segmented into three distinct stages. The first stage refers to the initial installation of video surveillance cameras and critical communications. The command-and-control infrastructure is deployed enabling the city authorities to communicate more effectively, and video surveillance provides evidence and a deterrent in the highest risk areas of the city.


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The second stage is characterized by new city stakeholders joining the steering group and influencing the technology direction. This stage often is challenging for the city as project complexity increases while the benefit remains stagnant. The final stage of investment represents more advanced integration, co-operation on data and analytics and the implementation of predictive crime centers.

Initial investment is focused on safety results and delivering a decrease in the city’s crime rate

The initial government investment in a safe city project is primarily about safety and security. At this stage, only the city’s critical locations are covered by video surveillance cameras, basic command and control equipment is deployed and the government begins to build the ICT infrastructure required.

An example of this stage can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya where, after successful completion of phase one of its safe city implementation, crime dropped by 46%.

As much of the infrastructure and technology is not already deployed, the required government investment is high. However, the benefits are quickly realised and can drive a large increase in the safety result with significant improvements in property and individual risk levels, police conviction rates and emergency response times.

What makes a successful safe city project?

The safe city is ultimately a government-driven approach to security. However, multiple stakeholders must be involved. The continuous evolution of technologies, city structure, and security requirements, means a broad range of expertise is needed to make safe city projects a success. Strong government support facilitates these projects, but ultimately a collaborative approach between the government stakeholders, including public health, fire and rescue, and social services, its citizens, and technology firms will provide the best opportunity for successful safe city projects.

Understanding the different stages of investment, and the associated benefits and challenges, can help cities reach a positive outcome. Whether it is first stage government investment driving an increase in the safety result, or third stage investment improving the social and economic situation of citizens, safe city solutions have a positive impact on the general well-being of the people working and living in the city.

The complete whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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