According to the United Nations, by 2050, more than 80% of the world population (estimated to be 9.3 billion) will be living in urban areas. The biggest contributors to this drastic change in the landscape of urban/rural population are the developing nations from Asia. Over the next four decades (2010 to 2050), India will add another 497 million to its urban population, China 341 million, and Indonesia 92 million. The challenges brought on by this drastic increase in urban population among the developing economies will stretch the limits of how societies function and how they can sustain productive economic and socio-cultural activities among its citizens. The latest advances in science and technology have to be brought to bear on these problems, without losing sight of the economics involved as well as the end-customer who will consume these technologies.
Hence, a research and educational oriented “urban centre” has been set up in India at IIT Bombay — specifically to address the urban challenges of the developing world, plagued with issues including but not limited to unplanned growth, lack of clean water, polluted air, poverty, poor health, by bringing together the best practitioners from science, technology, engineering and design. This Centre aims to establish quality of life indicators and identify methods to promote them in a sustainable manner, through collaborative research and data analysis.
Cities can be fountain-heads of innovation and growth, if its citizens are provided facilities to enjoy a decent quality of life. Once the basic necessities such as accommodation, water and food are fulfilled, quality of life depends on factors such as education, health, recreation and a sense of safety and security in day to day life. Clean and safe public spaces, community gardens and safe streets for children and elderly alike, helps to build confident and creative communities. Shorter commute times, pollution and noise free environment and work-life balance are some of the indicators of quality of life.
With a booming industrial and knowledge-based economy in India, it is expected that a research and educational centre as C-USE, located in one of its urban metropolis, will draw upon the large talent pool to drive the innovation agenda for urban development and improving quality of life for its citizens.