As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world’s urban areas, governments, businesses and civil society are springing to action to help cities manage this crisis and mitigate the fallout.
Share knowledge, save lives
As COVID-19 has traveled around the world, city after city has seen eerily similar patters of viral spread and the necessary drastic policy responses. The ability to share knowledge and best practices is crucial for cities to avoid mistakes and optimise the response, particularly in the early stages of the spread. It’s invaluable for metropolitan areas to explore the implementation of successful strategies deployed by other cities – like social distancing are vital to slow the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve.
The City Possible network, managed by Mastercard, has organised regular meetings of municipal decision-makers around the globe to exchange strategies on how to address the crisis in their communities. Similarly, C40 – a network of megacities committed to addressing climate change – launched a dedicated COVID-19 portal for cities to share knowledge and best practices for managing the crisis.
These city-to-city connections made in the short term will be vital to the necessary transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon economic system in the long term. Cities for Global Health, led by Metropolis and supported by UCLG, allows cities to share successful local initiatives to respond to health emergencies – COVID-19 or otherwise.
Connecting with experts
As some national governments struggle to respond, cities can be left to face the COVID-19 threat alone. This is why it’s critical to connect local decisionmakers to health experts.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is closing this information gap with the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative, which connects US cities with public health experts, researchers and clinicians from across the Johns Hopkins University network to relay the most important and up-to-date information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The organization is also working with the US Conference of Mayors and the National Association of City Transport Officials on the Transportation Response Program to provide rapid-response tools, real-time updates and technical assistance with providing essential urban services.
As another example, Cities for All, a global network focused on creating inclusive and accessible cities, is hosting an expert webinar series to help cities devise and coordinate strategies to protect the elderly and persons with disabilities. Global Resilient Cities Network, a Rockefeller Foundation-backed initiative dedicated to supporting urban resilience, has likewise organised a weekly speaker series with the World Bank on global responses, as well as a program to facilitate long-term resilient recovery plans among member cities.
Armed with the latest information from experts, cities can effectively plan and implement the strategies needed to slow the virus’s spread – and come back even stronger.
Disease vs. Data
The technological transformation of cities hasn’t slowed during the pandemic. Organizations focused on the “smart cities” boom have simply expanded areas of exploration to include ways to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis. Quantela, an artificial intelligence start-up focused on urban services, has created CoVER, an AI-powered emergency response platform to assist government officials with diagnosing, monitoring and tracking people with the disease as well as with communicating and collaborating with communities.