The Mega-Problem for Mega-Cities: Management

Neither technology nor infrastructure shows any limit for how big or how fast cities can grow and more megacities are on the horizon, according to this piece from Richard Dobbs and Jaana Remes.
February 6, 2011, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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Representing the McKinsey Global Institute, Dobbs and Remes argue that perceived limitations in technology and infrastructure will continue to fade away, and growing cities will have to contend with the real issue: management.

"Does this imply that the future will be one of massive megalopolises spread across the globe? Theoretically, the answer is yes-there is no limit to the size of cities. In practice, however, the growth of most urban centers is bound by an inability to manage their size in a way that maximizes scale opportunities and minimizes costs. Large urban centers are highly complex, demanding environments that require a long planning horizon and extraordinary managerial skills. Many city governments are simply not prepared to cope with the speed at which their populations are expanding.

Already there are plenty of examples of dysfunctional cities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Without skillful management, cities become centers of decay, gridlock, crime, urban sprawl, slum housing, and pollution. The quality of life deteriorates and economic dynamism falters-scale diseconomies outweigh scale benefits.

These challenges are most acute in the megacities-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants."

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Published on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 in What Matters
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