City-Tech Tokyo Shows the World How to Build a Sustainable, Smart City

During the last two days of February 2023, Tokyo hosted its first global smart cities event, City-Tech Tokyo, bringing the ideal smart city model to life. Thousands of global participants from government, academia and industry gathered in the world’s largest city to exchange a wide range of perspectives with a singular focus – smart cities for a sustainable future.

What made this event so unique was the enthusiastic embrace of startups and innovation. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike sent a resounding invitation to those wanting to implement new approaches to critical issues. Startups and companies in search of a city for their product or service would be wise to explore the world’s largest city as a proving ground. 

The conference hosted pitch contests and more than 450 business meetings amidst 300 startup booths to facilitate information exchange and investment. It is clear that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government intends to live up to its vision for 2040 to be “The most startup-friendly city in the world” as stated in its Future Tokyo comprehensive plan.

Tokyo seeks to not only serve its own, but also to share learnings with others in hopes that other cities will learn from their experiences. Conference organizers stated, “Tokyo’s urban issues are the ones which all countries around the world will face in the future.” 

As part of the global inclusion of knowledge exchange, a delegation of smart city leaders from the U.S. attended and spoke at the conference. Jennifer Sanders, North Texas Innovation Alliance; Tyler Svitak, Colorado Smart City Alliance; Ruthbea Yesner, IDC and Bob Bennett, Cities Today Institute and I had the great fortune to be a part of this incredible inaugural event and spend time exploring the awe-inspiring city that is Tokyo.

On a panel titled, “Developing Smart City Ecosystems for High Impact Transformation,” Yesner led a conversation on how partnerships between cities, regions, national levels of government and other public and private sector organizations are key to creating smart and resilient cities. The panelists explored how cities can share successes and lessons learned to mitigate the risk of implementing tech innovation.

Next, I had the honor of hosting a discussion with Mr. Takehiko Nagumo, Executive Managing Director at Smart City Institute Japan and Dr. Philipp Aeby, CEO at RepRisk. The conversation focused on “How to improve people’s well-being in digital governments and smart cities” Mr. Tak shared the Institute’s Liveable Well-Being City Indicator (LWCI) project, a proven model for happiness as a measure of community development. As part of Japan’s “Digital Garden City Nation Initiative” of the Kishida Administration, LWCI offers a first-of-its-kind set of indicators that measures well-being and liveability. Dr. Aeby of RepRisk then shared his expertise on how machine learning technologies can support better business conduct and more sustainable organizations. The combination of artificial and human intelligence on ESG risk data allows for “unprecedented scale and depth of research and monitoring of how companies are behaving on the ground.” This knowledge can support the business sector for cities while also offering city leaders new frameworks to explore impact. 

The impressive learnings from conference leadership, speakers and attendees all took place amidst the backdrop of the beautiful City of Tokyo. Anyone who needs proof that mega city systems can function with precision while instilling a sense of peace should spend time in this glorious metropolis. I was so inspired by how quiet and clean the city was despite the many millions of people bustling about. Green space was plentiful and traffic was manageable thanks to spot-on public transportation. It was a joy to be in that city and I cannot wait to return. Massive thanks, appreciation and respect to all who contributed so much to the City-Tech Tokyo. Hopefully this is the first of many wonderful events to come.