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We live in a world where climate change and unforeseen events are changing human behaviour. People want, and need, to live and work differently.

We started the year with events of almost biblical proportions – droughts, fires, floods, and now a global pandemic. COVID certainly has been the event of 2020 and we have learned that the world is less resilient than we thought. There is a high chance this will not have been the only pandemic of our lifetime, and we must learn to live with this new normal. At the same time, this presents an opportunity to re-invent ourselves and step out of our comfort zone.

“[Climate change] is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. This is not something you can like on Facebook.” – Greta Thunberg

Or simply put, there is no planet B. From David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg, the world is witnessing a wave of people demanding greater action on things like climate change, pollution and deforestation. With a few unfortunate exceptions, humans now mostly understand that climate change is a long-term threat to the world, and it is happening right now.

68% of the world population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

This rapid rise in urbanisation will dramatically reshape how we live our lives. The world’s population is expected to peak at 11 billion by the end of this century. Are we ready for this?

From climate change to mobility, the impact of population growth means we will need to rethink many of the ways in which we, as citizens, interact with our environment – from the production of food to the design of cities. This is the opportunity for us to become smarter, more customer centric and sustainable. COVID has shown us that we are facing many challenges on our path to increased urbanisation. We will have to find ways to make our cities more resilient.

Home has become a workplace. Work has become home. And people need to find peace.

Over the past year, work and leisure have been comingling. I have found myself waking up on a Sunday, turning on my laptop ready to dial into the team morning call, before realising that it was still weekend. At the same time, I have had to do my groceries on a workday to avoid the crowds during the heights of the lockdown. But this doesn’t only impact me, it impacts everyone.

The office as we knew it is not the answer. It needs to change.

Colleagues still need places to meet, because sometimes the exchange of ideas is better in-person. What does this mean for the future? If I had to guess, we will see more satellite offices and a smaller overall office footprint. Together, this can be a win-win, as the company saves on rent, while the employee benefits from less commute and a more balanced work environment. Let us reinvent the places where we work, to become a place we can use safely and creatively.

Tap into the power of technology at home and at work.

This year has brought technology to the forefront of how we work. Eleven months ago, face-to-face meetings were the norm and now the whole world is using Zoom. A lot has changed almost overnight, and it is encouraging to see how adaptable and willing humanity has become. Firms such as Alibaba, Amazon and Shopify have shown that technology can make our economy more resilient, even during a global lockdown.

But not everything is as black and white.

Big Data: With great power comes great responsibility.

Machine learning and related technologies have given us the ability to use data and improves our lives. This creates new opportunities but also poses problems. While personal data can be used for track and trace to respond to outbreaks, governments also have the ability to gain in-depth knowledge about their citizens. While these new technologies hold tremendous potential, it will be on all of us to ensure that they do not damage our institutions or trust in society.

Use data and digital solutions to maximize our resources and keep people safe.

But let us not forget the trends mentioned above require physical infrastructure. The data produced globally is doubling faster every two years. Data centres are quickly becoming the backbone of this data driven future.

The electrification of transport is now one of the major trends of the 21st century.

Not only energy production but also consumption has an impact on the environment. The lasted forecasts assume that by 2040 EV sales will raise to nearly 60% of the global automotive market – compare that to 2010 when annual sales were close to zero. With consumer consciousness on the rise and market forces gaining momentum, alternative fuel vehicles are quickly becoming the future of the automotive industry. Not only are government’s policies across countries pushing this forward, but companies are realising the other benefits of switching, such as reducing CO2 emissions, improving air quality, better choice of electric vehicles and rapidly increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Let’s use our knowledge to create sustainable futures and improve quality of life.

This all brings us back to the environment and how we generate the electricity needed for the future just described. Instead of the global reliance on coal and gas plants we need to build more solar, wind and hydro power. Without the support of policymakers, businesses and other organizations, the transition is unlikely to happen quickly enough. It is on all of us to drive this change together.

Keep people and businesses moving without hurting our planet.

This year we have seen a renaissance of active travel. From cities launching pop up cycling infrastructure, to a major boost in micro mobility such as e-scooters. Like many sectors, transportation is evolving. Transportation planners must respond to people’s needs, but also make way for new innovative ideas such as autonomous vehicles.

Creating the transport solutions we need.

Cities are growing, and urban populations are rising. With approximately 2.5 billion additional people expected to move to urban areas by 2050, what does this mean for the future of our cities? How can we better facilitate the movement of people and goods in and around these cities, without increasing congestion, road accidents, air pollution, noise and climate change? Transport planners must respond to people’s needs, lifestyles and travel behaviours but also make way for new innovative modes such as micro mobility or autonomous vehicles.

The world has become more globalised yet in some respects it has become more fragmented.

Aside from the environment there are also important societal issues to address. It feels like we live in a world where everyone’s voice has been amplified, but at the same society has become more fragmented. From political unrest across many countries to growing signs of nationalism and of course the very public black lives matter movement. There are many challenges we have to face, from the impact of COVID on inequality & unemployment to the impact of social media and fake news on our politics.

If we want to succeed in this fast-changing world, we have to adapt, move forward, and above all have to do it together.

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