Israel, as a crowded country with a very urbanized population, is at the forefront in the research and development of technologies that would preserve and enhance urban quality of life. Among these are autonomous vehicles, location–based services, cellular navigation and tracking systems that can be used to improve urban quality of life. In addition, recognition of the need for these technologies has increased in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has forced a reconsideration of many of the key premises of city growth and function, including urban densities, optimal land use mixes, the separation of home and workspace, new forms of urban mobility and the future of transportation systems.
With urban areas growing dominant globally, cities are increasingly being challenged to develop the urban environment in ways that both embrace technology but also preserve and enhance urban quality of life. This motivation has popularized the idea of designing ‘smart cities’ equipped to confront the challenges and opportunities of the ever-growing city.
Appreciating the importance of these trends in our daily lives, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s department of geography in the Faculty of Social Sciences, in cooperation with the Rothberg International School, have introduced Israel’s first Master’s Program in Smart Cities and Urban Informatics. Its objective is to educate a new generation of urban planners, administrators and decisionmakers and equip them with the ability to integrate policy and technology for the welfare of urban communities. The degree will offer courses relating to the practice of urban development, hands-on technical skills and field courses all geared towards confronting the complexities of smart urban growth.
The two-semester program will be administered by the Rothberg International School and taught in English alongside students from all over the world. Students will be challenged to address real work problems and present technological solutions that can be implemented. Courses will focus on issues like urban transportation, climate change and its impact on cities and smart infrastructure design amongst other relevant topics.
Program director Prof. Daniel Felsenstein, explained: “This is a program that leverages the capabilities of our university in ways that will allow students to obtain an appreciation of their potential for contributing to our cities, both now and in the future. It will help them obtain the practical tools to make a real change in this all-important and constantly expanding field.”
When they graduate from the program, the students will be able to find jobs in many different areas. In the public sector, the degree is relevant for jobs in city planning and local government as well as public agencies dealing with housing, environment, energy and infrastructure provision. Private opportunities include employment in planning and development consultancies, information technology and communications companies as well as land and real estate development. For those interested in pursuing further academic goals, the program sets students on a path for additional research degrees in areas such as geography, environmental studies and public policy.
The launch of this program places the Hebrew University as a national leader in recognizing the importance of Smart Cities for the global future and will help introduce new and advanced technologies that can change the world we live in. Successful completion of the program will provide students with a master’s degree from the department of geography of the university’s faculty of social sciences.