PwC city resilience framework: From short-term to emergency planning and responding to long-term shock-proofing

  • PwC launched a city resilience framework that gives cities the tools to manage the immediate threat of COVID-19.
  • Three enablers for crisis response and building resilience include urban innovation & technology, finance & investment and capacity & governance.
  • The importance of using data analytics innovatively to fight the pandemic globally in many cities, for example: digital health initiatives led by Riyadh Health Affairs played a vital role in fighting the pandemic and curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Dubai, UAE- 012.10.2020: As urban leaders prepare for a new reality caused by the pandemic, PwC has launched a framework that gives cities the tools to manage the immediate threat of COVID-19 and build long-term societal, economic and environmental resilience. It includes a series of enablers in areas such as repurposing existing facilities, smarter data analytics, the development of alternative emergency funding options and more effective cross-sector city level governance.

Cities now face the dual challenge of keeping people safe and achieving a swift economic recovery. Thus, crisis recovery measures and resilience programmes need to strengthen urban services and infrastructure within three urban domains, enabled by cross-cutting capabilities that include technology, innovation, governance and access to finance and investments. It can only be achieved by adopting smart city technologies to help cities provision for critical services and enable citizens to seamlessly carry on their lives. This will be critical to equipping and empowering cities to drive an inclusive and resilient recovery after COVID-19.

Moreover, the pandemic is a unique opportunity for cities to learn from their experience in combating the virus to be better prepared for future emergencies. Around the world, various cities have already demonstrated how a pro-active, coordinated response to the pandemic yields immediate results in terms of virus suppression and lays the foundations for long-term resilience. The framework highlighted five cities – one in the Middle East, one in Asia, two in Europe and one in the US, that have all adopted effective and innovative measures which demonstrate how the framework can be applied in the current crisis to build long-term resilience against future threats.

Riyadh, Singapore, Vienna, Boston and Helsinki are standout examples and looking at the lessons learnt from these cities in recovery, urban leaders can add value at each stage of the framework sequence by helping their cities meet the current crisis.

Hazem Galal, Partner Cities and Local Government Global Leader said: “Cities are at the forefront of the impacts of COVID-19. Those cities that have invested in developing capabilities to deal with all stages of the threat cycle: sense, defend, respond and recover have demonstrated their resilience in dealing with the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic. Cities should adopt an integrated approach, working with all stakeholders to enhance their preparedness for future shocks.”

With approximately 25% of the Kingdom’s population and home to one of the busiest airports in the region, Riyadh was vulnerable to COVID-19 requiring the government to take swift actions. Digital health initiatives led by Riyadh Health Affairs played a vital role in fighting the pandemic and curbing its spread. Examples include ‘Your Medicine to Your Home’ which provides patients with medication delivery; the ‘Seha’ app which provides remote medical consultations as well as a contact-tracing technology through the ‘Tabaud’ app.

Singapore is no different than Riyadh, the government took decisive actions to raise citizens’ awareness of the impact of COVID-19 by leveraging its strength in technology and data analytics. A state-run WhatsApp group provides citizens with daily updates on confirmed cases, clarifications on rumours and government announcements.Vienna holds lessons for other cities in initiating a range of “life after the crisis” measures to strengthen communities against future shocks: for example, neighbourhood phone networks organise daily help for vulnerable older or isolated residents with no family support.

Meanwhile, Boston provides a good example of how engagement and collaboration between all stakeholders is essential to mitigate and ultimately manage emergencies. In academia, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative has run classes for city officials on subjects such as emergency preparedness and response.

In addition, Helsinki, Finland is adopting a three-pillar functional city approach smart city (whereby the foundation of effective and efficient service delivery is underpinned via innovation and digital technology), inclusive city (whereby community is at the heart of areas such as the design and delivery of public services), and sustainable city (which focuses on a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035).

Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor, City of Helsinki said: “Helsinki’s mission is to be the most functional city in the world. The strategy is based on a holistic leadership model, where each and every aspect of the city management and functions is built better by following the idea of functionality.”

PwC’s city resilience framework shows how cities can navigate this perilous journey in the wake of a catastrophe by harnessing smart city technologies, from phone tracking apps to locate and suppress infections to data analytics that enable real-time monitoring and management of essential services and infrastructure. At each stage of the journey, there is a relevant watchword: sense the approaching threat; move swiftly to defend and reinforce vulnerable points; respond by implementing structured, informed decisions; and recover after identifying key assets and data indicators that trigger recovery measures.

COVID-19 is a reminder that cities should partner and collaborate with national governments as well as citizens, NGOs, academica and the private sector in a multistakeholder approach to ensure a consistent set of policies and coordinated actions. Cities must become more self-reliant and innovative, enlisting all stakeholders in crisis response and recovery planning.

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