NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century
What do we want our cities to be in the Urban Century? The NPR Cities Project reports on current trends and future challenges in urban areas. Our summer 2013 series covers innovation: how cities are testing technology in an effort to increase efficiency and become more responsive to citizens.
Millions of people worldwide are leaving rural areas for urban ones. NPR Cities Project editor Franklyn Cater highlights five books that examine and celebrate 21st century life in the metropolis.
The Mathare Valley, shown here in an aerial map, is one of the largest and oldest slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Residents are using hand-held GPS devices to map the area, which comprises 13 villages and is home to nearly 200,000 people.
A billion people worldwide live in slums, largely invisible to city services and governments — but not to satellites. A global movement is putting mapping technology in the hands of slum dwellers to persuade governments and the residents themselves to see these shadow cities in a whole new light. NPR's Gregory Warner visits one slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Can technology help cities become more efficient and sustainable? Or does the drive toward a new kind of "technopolis" raise concerns about privacy, equity and cost? Please join the NPR Cities Project for a Twitter conversation about technology and urban innovation.
July 11, 2013 Around the world, cities like Rio de Janeiro are using new technologies to solve their problems. And while there's great promise in many of these "smart" city programs, urban planner Anthony Townsend is wary of putting so much power in the hands of tech companies.
June 28, 2013 Most people know to phone 911 in an emergency, but police departments are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls. Some cities use 311 lines to help divert non-emergency requests, while Miami dispatches a group of unarmed public servants to tackle many non-urgent situations.
June 20, 2013 A growing number of cities are using surveillance cameras in the hope of fighting crime, but all that video is almost useless without powerful search tools to sort the material. The municipal camera trend is proving to be big business for companies that design video analytics software.
June 12, 2013 The Estonian capital is dotted with medieval towers and Soviet architecture that belie its status as one of the world's most technologically advanced cities. Residents use a smart card to ride the bus, and mail packages and pay for parking with their phones.
June 4, 2013 On Spain's Atlantic coast, the city of Santander has installed 12,000 sensors that measure everything from when streetlights need to be dimmed to when trash dumpsters are full — saving millions for cash-strapped public coffers. It's becoming a model for cities worldwide.
May 31, 2013 Big Data promises a future where our Big Cities become more flexible and responsive to human needs, argues commentator Adam Frank. While danger may lurk in the data sets, the fact is that we may need to mine Big Data for solutions to our everyday problems.
October 2, 2012 WNPRMany cities spend millions on prisons annually, and often those moving in and out of jail come from the same neighborhoods. The Justice Mapping Center maps those costs, block by block, to help policymakers visualize where those public dollars are going — and determine if they could be better spent.
September 27, 2012 CPRThe city is surprisingly diverse, with more than 90 languages spoken in its public schools. Local officials and residents are working to turn that diversity into an economic advantage — but creating a sense of community among such diverse groups is no small challenge.
September 18, 2012 In many cities around the world, certain ethnic groups are often associated with particular occupations. Cheikh Fall, like many other Senegalese immigrants in New York, makes his living as a street vendor. He lives by the motto, "Work like you're never gonna die, and worship like you will die tomorrow."
September 11, 2012 In Detroit, the predominantly black city and predominantly white suburbs have feuded for decades over finances and control of assets. A recent suburban vote to help a city institution offers hope for better cooperation. But old tensions are still roiling over a proposal to put a beloved city park under state oversight.
August 28, 2012 As Hurricane Isaac bears down on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, some urban thinkers joined us on Twitter to explore what cities can do to prepare for disasters.
August 28, 2012 WLRNMiami may bring to mind images of the sea and palm trees, but according to park advocates, it also suffers from a lack of green space. That can make it difficult for downtown residents to find places to enjoy the outdoors. Advocates are trying to remedy that — in the face of ongoing downtown development.
August 21, 2012 WBURIn Boston, scientists are predicting that climate change will lead to dramatic sea level rise, and more frequent flooding, around the city. Officials are studying the potential impact on roads and sewers and are asking waterfront developers to plan for increased flooding.