The intervention of digital technology helps cities to transform into more efficient, livable, and sustainable urban living spaces. Currently, more than half of the global population lives in urban areas, resulting in an increasing rate of urban sprawl. As a result, cities face huge challenges in meeting the housing, infrastructure, transport, and energy needs of urban populations which urgently require new ideas and methods to solve these issues. In this regard, the digital twin city is an emerging concept that provides a tool for improving urban planning and construction, combining innovations in digital technology with new operational models and approaches for re-imagining the built environment.
The digital twin approach represents the fourth industrial revolution technology to understand systems better and intervene more effectively and is being used by cities to reshape and optimise their urban planning and operations, governance and service models, and planning methods. Several cities have adopted digital twin technology to make them build a better environment for people, society, and nature by connecting the physical, digital, and human worlds. Countries like Singapore, Xiong’an, and China have already practised the concept of digital twin cities to improve urban public services and management through digitisation. By using the technology, stakeholders assist the government in providing urban services more conveniently and efficiently by using 3D modeling to promote more accurate city governance on the ground.
Digitisation of urban services covers a wide range of domains such as mobility infrastructure, social services, environment, knowledge and skills, and culture. It also involves many stakeholders in the planning and administrative process. However, city planning and administration have changed significantly in the last decade with the rise of technology, disruptive business models, and technological solutions that enable the sharing of data across domains to build situational awareness.
In Pakistan, cities are facing several challenges of housing availability and costs, traffic congestion, pollution, and waste. To address these issues, there is a pressing need for an effective policy framework that focuses on providing a digital solution for the urban planning of Pakistani cities. Digital solutions are driving improvements in the physical efficiency of urban services and are transferring capital investment into better operational expenses. This allows city administrators to take greater risks and implement solutions more rapidly. These digital solutions also help convert dead assets of cities that consume resources into assets that attract revenue through value-added services. These services can be coupled with digital advertising platforms to enable cities to capitalise on unused space while adopting more sustainable means of providing the original functions. However, the government and city administration needs to make the future of Pakistan’s cities sustainable, citizens-centric, economically vibrant, accessible, resilient, well-governed, and responsive. The future of urban infrastructure will be a function of how technology and business models evolve.