Simon Moon, CEO of Atkins Middle East, told delegates at MEED’s Smart Cities conference today that the Middle East faces unique challenges in its smartification. By 2025, 88 per cent of the GCC’s population will live in urban areas, meaning the region must work towards sustainable infrastructure.

“Every nation and city in the world is talking about smart cities,” he told delegates. “But here we have a very special reason.”

Smart cities need to drive people to the region, as well, creating urban environments that people are attracted to. “Successful cities work on both an economic and social level,” said Moon.

One of the main challenges he outlined was persuading people to use the public transport that is being built around the GCC, but that is still seen by many as the poor cousin to the automobile.

“[Public transport schemes are] an important step in giving people new choices, but it isn’t much help if [people prefer their cars],” said Moon. “There needs to be a cultural and social shift. Getting us out  of our cars is probably the biggest challenge smart cities face.”