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Developing cities urged to ‘leapfrog’ to new innovations


Conventional wisdom is that emerging cities have fallen hopelessly behind their developed counterparts on infrastructure and could never catch up.

But in a blog post for the Asian Development Bank, Tony Wong offers a contrarian view. Impoverished cities can match or exceed the developed world by “leapfrogging” directly to modern architecture and technology.

“Leapfrogging is simply about capturing and building on advancements and innovations in policies and technologies achieved in other places,” Wong writes. The strategy allows resource-strapped cities to skip “the traditional evolutionary approach to infrastructure development and management,” he adds. It also means avoiding solutions that have proven ineffective or expensive for other municipalities.

Wong, a civil engineering professor at Australia’s Monash University, focuses on the ability of Global South cities to transform into “water-sensitive” metropolises. By adapting lessons learned and integrating water management into holistic planning, infrastructure can be built at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. But the leapfrogging concept that Wong espouses has much broader implications. It could apply to just about anything, from climate resilience to digital-based economies. 

Asian Development Bank

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