Planning the future of New York with Rit Aggarwala

Cities aren’t so much becoming smart, they’ve always been smart and the history of urban technology is often forgotten when it comes to cities.

Cities aren’t so much becoming smart, they’ve always been smart and the history of urban technology is often forgotten when it comes to cities. Yet even the most global and future-facing of cities are living legacies of long histories. Taking a long view of innovation can help us think more creatively in the present about the many possible futures that a city needs to prepare for. Whether it’s recovering from a global pandemic, responding to a rapidly changing climate, repivoting an economy to net zero, or improving the trust between city government and citizens, technology will play a defining role.

In this extended episode of Connected Places we explore what this means for one of the world’s most global and iconic of cities, New York, and few people are more qualified than our tour guide when it comes to understanding the role that urban technology has played, and continues to play, in New York’s story.

Rit Aggarwala has advised cities all over the world on urban technology and sustainable planning, including his hometown of New York where he played a key role in Michael Bloomberg’s administration when he was Mayor of New York. Rit is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a Senior Urban Tech Fellow at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute. He was also a founding member of the team that built Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company founded by Google. 

What’s so insightful about Rit’s reflections is that the story of New York is similar to the story of many other cities because the questions he’s grappling with apply to any city: How has technology played a role in the evolution of New York, what are the technologies that will most likely shape its future, and how is the city’s leadership preparing for that future? How do you ensure that all New Yorkers can participate in the digital economy? How do city leaders bring people with them in a time of growing mistrust in public institutions and concerns over privacy and civil liberties? And how consequential is the role of leadership, both political and business, in shaping the future of a city?

Music on this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions and Phill Ward Music (

Show notes

To read our CEO’s recent blog on the role that innovation hubs can play in accelerating the UK Government’s ambition to level up the economy, click here.

You can register for the live City Leader Dialogues with the Mayor of Bristol, Mayor Marvin Rees on 7th September.

You can also register for our Innovation Places Summit on 23rd September, as well as our Active Travel Summit on 29th September.

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