This Is Why Bill Gates' New $80 Million 'Digital City' Could Succeed Where Another Recent Venture Hasn’t
But it might be awhile before there’s an Apple store there.
It comes as no surprise that the news of Bill Gates’ newest project, a smart city located 45 minutes outside of Phoenix, is making headlines. Encompassing 25,000 acres and funded by an intial influx of $80 million, the undertaking will reimagine schools, housing, office space, and retail in a digitally-compatible context. While the tech leader’s investment in the future (via his venture capital firm) instantly lends the futuristic concept an air of legitimacy, the project known as “Belmont” is far from the first attempt.
Nor is it the largest.
In 2014, India launched an ambitious initiative to build 100 such cities throughout the country, integrating residents and infrastructure to create a new type of livable, productive, and sustainable urban environment. Unlike Gates’ recently announced effort, the earlier Indian undertaken has been largely managed and concepted by the country’s federal government. Over the past three years, more pressing civic needs have laid claim to the effort and funds initially allocated towards the 100 state-of-the-art cities. Since the announcement, work has only begun in 20 of the 100 announced sites.
Gates’ venture, which is privately held, will not be subject to the demands of a nation or its politicians. Nor will it fall victim to the bureaucracies and lead times inherent to public projects of any scale. Belmont Partners stated in a press release:
Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs.
While both the Indian government and Belmont Partners may be working towards the same goal, even with more resources at its disposal, the Indian effort is beholden to the civic services and infrastructure that lies between its cities, which has not been given similar priority and thus can be construed as a debilitating bottleneck. Gates’ more modest scope of just one city will allow for faster and more focused adaptation, as well as a patient audience of private investors that the Indian government doesn’t enjoy with public funds.
That’s not to say that Belmont will be a certain success. But given Bill Gates’ track record and his proven willingness to serve the public good with his undertakings, it’s easy to get excited about what the Microsoft visionary has in store for the future of American life.