Information and communications technologies will be the key tool in the struggle for survival in the slums

Every day brings new evidence of the planet’s urban transformation. And this demographic transformation to a world of cities is only halfway complete: by the time it has run its course in 2050, one of every three people worldwide will be living in a slum. But there are reasons for hope in the world’s slums, as these extreme environments are creating crucibles for innovation. While multiple forces threaten to destabilize these newest and largest cities, they are also driving adaptations that combine new technologies and new forms of organization. Lightweight information and communications technologies like mobile phones will be the key tool in the struggle for survival in the slums of the 21st-century megacities. They are being deeply intertwined with new grassroots models for social and economic cooperation. In a virtuous circle, these new cooperative models are enablers as well as outcomes of lightweight infrastructure. They are forging a powerful symbiotic relationship with the outputs of science and engineering R&D. But why should companies care what happens in the slums of the third world? Put simply, these places will become critically important incubators of new lifestyles, technological practices, and business models.

Innovation in the Urban Wilderness: Lightweight Infrastructure Meets Cooperative Strategy, Institute of the Future, 2006