5 Questions with Aarti Tandon, CEO at Smart City Expo Atlanta
An esteemed speaker at the City Possible Summit 2020
What’s your hope for the future of cities?
That we redefine and humanize “smart cities” – cities cannot be smart if there is homelessness, hunger or poverty.
What part of your role or broader urban challenge keeps you up at night?
The myth that disruption and innovation yields equity. Case in point is Citibike. It has been in New York for eight years, yet it entered the Bronx, the poorest county in the entire country with the worst first mile and last mile challenges, just this past May.
The fact that we cannot currently design truly inclusive cities or communities if only 3% of the world’s architects are black, including Africa.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and highlighted significant fissures in our country’s foundation (healthcare, broadband, equity) and until we have more diverse voices with varied lived experiences in leadership roles, our institutions will not be reflective of the communities they serve.
What part of your role and responsibilities do you love the most?
I love the fact that we are bringing the most diverse voices together to build inclusive 21st centuries. 70% of our speakers in 2019 were women, people of color, or persons with disabilities.
What’s the most exciting opportunity for cities?
To help the most underserved areas leapfrog into the future. Why can’t we deploy the energy-generating pavements used in stadiums and universities on basketball courts on the Southside of Chicago or playgrounds in the Bronx? If we meet people where they are, they would know that, they too, have a place in the future of our cities.
What motto do you live by and why?
Leave people better than you found them.
Tell us something that people may not know about you?
I survived the December 2004 tsunami.
About Aarti Tandon
Ms. Tandon is a seasoned lawyer, human rights advocate, and smart cities expert, deeply committed to building inclusive 21st century cities. She has convened 1000+ global leaders on creating equity and economic mobility by harnessing the $1.6 trillion global smart city marketplace.
Ms. Tandon served as Executive Director of Smart Cities New York, a producer for The Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Summit, and a Senior Advisor to the Bloomberg 2020 campaign. She participated in the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s G20 Global Smart City Alliance.
Ms. Tandon is one of the rare lawyers to have received a Presidential Commutation. In 2008, President George W. Bush granted the early release of Ms. Tandon’s client who was serving 14 years in federal prison.
She is a Producer of “Catching the Sun”, a film on green jobs executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, and Co-Executive Producer of “The Uncondemned”, a film on the first ever conviction of rape as a crime of war.
She is a graduate of Emory University (B.A.) and Cardozo School of Law (J.D.) where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Moot Court Honor Society and received the Jacob Burns Medal of Honor.