April 1, 2021
From fake news to flash floods, simulations help cities cope with crises
BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Simulations of events ranging from climate disasters to misinformation campaigns on social media can help cities tackle problems that are both complex and hard to predict as they recover from the coronavirus pandemic, urban experts said.
Alternate Reality Simulations use game-like elements and role-playing, with the United Nations’ development unit (UNDP), public and private sectors, and the Arizona State University (ASU) testing them last week in six major cities.
The simulations in Hanoi, Bangkok, Harare and other cities were set in 2022, with the coronavirus still lurking, and the added threats of fake news about insurgents, the failure of the telecom network, or violence and looting after a flash flood.
“Events of the past year have shown that whilst we can foresee a range of potential crises, it is impossible to predict with any certainty their timing or scale,” said Milica Begovic, an innovation specialist at UNDP in Istanbul.
Alternate reality simulations can include obtaining insights from a range of people – including those often excluded from the decision-making process, said Sha Xin Wei, who directs the Synthesis Center for responsive environments at ASU.
Post-COVID-19, policymakers will need to make “sea-changes to how we organise our economies, and how we navigate our mixture of nature and people and infrastructure,” Sha said.
“Magic-bullet solutions to wicked problems may become other wicked problems. If anything, the pandemic showed how important it is to model differently,” he added.