Time for a reset?
Crises play a fundamental part in shaping our cities and the way we live and work. Some of the most important developments which affected modern urban planning and management include sanitation systems developed in the mid-19th century in response to cholera outbreaks in London . More recent crises include the 2008 global financial crisis, which has led to more (young) people returning to city centers, more jobs in the creative and service sector, and introduced the rise of the sharing economy. Such examples in history teach us that we can see great crises as opportunities to rethink and remake- thus reset- our society and economy . Today, we are addressing a global public health crisis, the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). How will the impact of coronavirus make us rethink how we live and work?
It was a matter of when not if. Friday the 13th of March, Curaçao had its first patient who tested positive for the coronavirus. On that same day, the government also canceled all flights coming in from Europe, and people flocked to supermarkets to stock up on the essentials. We’ve seen similar developments occur in China, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA. Officials have to make difficult decisions that affect the daily lives of many. With an increased awareness of public health, our cities and people try to be flexible in how they work and socialize. These drastic temporary changes and discussions can later form the basis of how societies and economies will recover after the crisis. Here are four lessons we hope Curaçao will learn from the corona crisis.
1. Designing healthy cities and communities is not a ‘nice-to-have’, it is a ‘must’
Public health crises make us rethink how we design our urban environments- and most importantly, for who. Essential for our communities are accessible clean water in public areas, clean and regularly maintained public restrooms, proper sanitation systems, well-ventilated areas, and fresh air. But also think about how digital infrastructure can help with creating healthy buildings and urban spaces. For example, by installing no-touch taps and soap dispensers or by installing automatic doors and lighting.
2. Public E-services for enhanced accessibility and efficiency
Now is also the time to consider how services, such as bank appointments and civil requests could be redesigned to require less physical presence. An increase in E-services can work great for government services and is a long term solution for improving efficiency. No more waiting at kranshi for hours to request a permit does sound great, doesn’t it? This also provides a platform for information sharing and increased citizen participation. E-services allow the ones with less time or less mobility to still be informed and still take care of things.
3. Remote working is part of the new ways we work With the call to minimize social contact and coronavirus transmission, many companies that previously claimed remote working was not possible are finding ways to make it happen. Such a response is necessary to address these unexpected workplace changes but will demand flexibility, trust, a supportive digital infrastructure, and clear communication guidelines . Many companies are introducing remote working as a temporary solution, but likely it will force companies to rethink how to organize their workplace- even after the crisis. Discovering the practical advantages of remote working can affect office size and space, the necessary supportive technology and software, work hours, business travels, and interaction with colleagues- thus ultimately changing how, where and when we work in the future.
4. Diversify the economy to be more resilient
With tourists canceling their holidays, banned flights and limited cruise ships, Curaçao’s tourism sector will likely experience a drop in the times ahead . As tourism is currently the largest economic pillar of the island, its economic impact will be significant. Perhaps a good time to start taking action and invest in diversifying Curaçao’s economy. The more economic pillars a city has, the higher its chances are of successfully recovering from crises .
The coronavirus outbreak is not the first crisis, nor will it be the last. Crises present us with the chance to see clearly what is working and what is not, a time to test flexibility, innovation, and resiliency in our country. Crises force society and economy to reshape themselves and, if done properly, emerge fresh and refocused. Ultimately, we could see a crisis as a time to reset and to change the way we live and work- for the better.
Sources: 1. https://www.citylab.com/design/2020/03/coronavirus-urban-planning-global-cities-infectious-disease/607603/ 2. Florida, Richard. The Great Reset: How the Post-Crash Economy Will Change the Way We Live and Work. 2011. 3. https://hbr.org/2020/02/whats-your-companys-emergency-remote-work-plan 4. http://chata.org/covid-19-affects-tourism/