As urban populations increase to roughly 2.5 billion people by 2050, cities will need to evolve to meet the resulting resource demands by applying big data, according to a capstone project by six Executive MBA students at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

“Globally, a growing number of cities are taking proactive steps to leverage data to improve the lives of citizens,” said Benjamin Behrend, who collaborated on the project with fellow Class of 2017 students Lala Balaoghlanova, Meghan Gound, Stasia Levin, John Saunders, and Neil Sumilas.

According to their research, Singapore is a prototype of how cities can use big data to engage with their citizens. In Singapore, citizens are “active participants in co-creating with the government, actively identifying the services, and defining the benefits sought,” said Behrend. For example, the OneService@SG app allows citizens to access government services quickly and efficiently with the tap of a button.

The benefits exemplified by the efficient and active citizen-government relationship in Singapore do come with a cost – the automation of roles that historically required unskilled workers results in significant job displacement. The solution established by the government is unique: each year, citizens utilize a $500 credit to be educated on a subject of their choice to facilitate lifelong learning.

“What all successful burgeoning smart cities acknowledge is that data alone is not a solution,” said Behrend. “Big data itself makes no solutions and solves no problems – it is what is done with the data to include people and processes that push today’s cities towards tomorrow’s successes.”