DUBAI- By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to a new study of the World Government Summit (WGS).

It further says that catering to the demands of the ever-increasing population in cities and impacts on business operations will require innovative methods and digital solutions to accomplish it.

While smart cities continue to invest in emerging and disruptive technologies to develop sustainably and navigate the new era of resident demands, such rapid digitalisation presents an opaque universe of cyber challenges that may cause significant harm, says the 'Security by Design - Safe and Secure Smart Cities in a Volatile Cyber World' report, produced in collaboration with Ernst and Young (EY). It highlights the need for governments and smart cities across the world to analyse and build security requirements at all levels.

It also focuses on the need for governments to invest heavily in securing information and communication technologies, including all digital services, while increasing cyber awareness among all stakeholders, residents, and government officials.

The report further identifies the main challenges facing smart cities, such as insecure devices, linking vision to strategy and policies, implementing multiple programs, insufficient funding, absence of unified security structures, and security controls for operational technology infrastructure.

Mohamed Yousef AlSharhan, Deputy Managing Director of the World Government Summit Organisation, stated that the WGS brings together policymakers, experts, entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers, in order to ensure cross-collaboration that leads to innovative solutions to tackle today’s challenges and unleash tomorrow’s opportunities.

AlSharhan said that the report comes at a pivotal time and contributes to the development of cities, in which more than four billion people live in.

He added that the report launched in tandem with the United Nations ‘World Cities Day’ on October 31st, reaffirms the WGS’s role in supporting international efforts to implement sustainable development goals, in "making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable," given that they contribute about 60 percent of the global GDP.

On his part, Samer Omar, EY MENA GPS Consulting Cyber Competency Leader, stated, "Governments in the MENA region have shown great foresight in pursuing digital transformations that put citizens and their wellbeing first. The rapid urbanisation of communities has strained both the physical and digital infrastructure of countries, requiring smart cities to focus on three core components of a digital programme – people, processes, and technology.

However, the shift to hyper-connectivity and implementation of emerging technologies, sped up by the pandemic, has created new vulnerabilities to consider. Therefore, governments and CEOs need to develop strategy and risk landscape behind their current cyber ecosystem so as to better understand threats, as well as identify their roles in building a cyber-secure environment for their communities and stakeholders."

The report explores a range of topics that are essential for cybersecurity in a smart city, primarily, cybersecurity governance, critical infrastructure protection, evolving threat landscape with digitalisation, resident privacy, as well as innovative approaches to offer adequate protection. Furthermore, it highlights the roadmap for governments to build cybersecurity capabilities across the board.

According to the report, smart cities are facing multiple cyber challenges, which increase the need to enhance government knowledge. The report addresses collaborative efforts needed to develop solutions and initiatives to design cities to accommodate the expected increase in global population in coming years.

To respond to cyber security challenges, the need to adopt a multi-level methodology should start now. Cities must also prioritise benefiting from the development of innovative digital business environments, for instance, automation, "blockchain" technology, and artificial intelligence. Additionally, developing an advanced methodology to deal with various cyber challenges will enhance smart cities’ flexibility and readiness, and develop effective response systems to future challenges.

The report addressed the most important factors in building smart cities, and the need to take measures to ensure the technical development of cities while protecting them from challenges that accompany their development.

It further taps into the importance of modern technology, which forms a link between different sectors, systems, and devices, thus contributing to enhancing the cybersecurity of the population, and supporting new practices through which governments can keep pace with the era of rapid digital transformation.

The report concludes with the following recommendations for government: smart city design, cybersecurity trends, security solutions, integrating security solutions into smart city design, the role of governments in developing, preparing and maintaining cybersecurity policies, and the need for a secure digital infrastructure.


© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2021.