sheng126_ Wang QuanchaoXinhua via Getty Images_e-commerce smart villages Wang Quanchao/Xinhua via Getty Images

It Takes a Smart Village to Build Sustainable Prosperity

The unbridled urbanization that globalization has brought has led to over-consumption and a lower quality of life for many. A better approach would be to extend access to high-quality services – including water, energy, transport, and internet – even to far-flung rural areas.

HONG KONG – The world is facing a triple crisis of food, energy, and water scarcity. While its immediate triggers were the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war, its roots run much deeper: a culture of relentless consumption, the rapid growth of inadequately planned cities, and disregard for rural well-being.

In many ways, globalization rests on the principle that “bigger is better.” Massive conglomerates can achieve economies of scale that small and medium-size enterprises cannot, and highly concentrated cities generate more innovation, GDP growth, and productivity than dispersed, sparsely populated rural areas. The natural next step on the quest for scale and concentration is networked “smart cities” and urban hubs.

What is often forgotten is that such systems are highly resource-intensive. And, as detached from traditional rural livelihoods as they might seem, cities and conglomerates depend on rural communities to provide many of those resources. In fact, as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s latest Global Land Outlook points out, more than half of world GDP is moderately or highly dependent on natural capital.

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