Why Japan is building smart cities from scratch

Tim Hornyak in Nature:

By 2050, nearly 7 out of 10 people in the world will live in cities, up from just over half in 2020. Urbanization is nothing new, but an effort is under way across many high-income countries to make their cities smarter, using data, instrumentation and more efficient resource management. In most of these nations, the vast majority of smart-city projects involve upgrades to existing infrastructure. Japan stands out for its willingness to build smart communities from scratch as it grapples with a rapidly ageing population and a shrinking workforce, meaning that there are fewer people of working age to support older people.

In 2021, the proportion of Japan’s population aged 65 and over hit 29.1%, the highest in the world. By 2036 it will be 33%. Regional cities, especially, face a long, slow economic decline. As a resource-poor, disaster-prone country, Japan has also had to pursue energy efficiency and resilience following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the tsunamis it triggered. The resulting meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant initially encouraged a shift away from nuclear power, which accounted for less than 4% of Japan’s energy use in 2020. However, there are growing calls, led by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, for some reactors to be reopened to provide energy security and tackle rising fuel prices.

More here.