Saudi Arabia's $500 billion Neom megaproject can act as a beacon of hope for a world staging its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a Dubai conference heard.
The ambitious development has been described as the jewel in the crown of Saudi Arabia’s Visionary 2030 scheme to diversify its oil-based economy.
Neom - meaning "new future" - is being built in the north west of the country and will be home to cities, towns, ports and tourist hotspots in what organisers are calling a “living laboratory”.
“We have all become conscious of the quality of our lives over what has happened in the past nine months,” said Mansoor Hanif, Neom’s engineering technology and digital director, at Gitex Technology Week in Dubai’s World Trade Centre.
“I think you will agree that we need progress right now and Neom has been described by some as the most ambitious and visionary project in the world.
“It’s an accelerator for human progress.”
Mr Hanif said Neom will lead the way when showing the world how to rebuild after the pandemic.
“We believe liveability is about having smaller cities designed to optimal size,” he said.
“Cities should be sustainable. That’s why we are planning a dozen smaller cities in Neom, rather than the megacity project you have in Shenzhen in China.
“Quality of life is so important and equal to, if not more than, the economy.”
Mr Hanif also said the project would leave other cities behind in terms of what it could offer residents.
“We want to build the world’s first cognitive city,” he said.
“Every city in the world aspires to be a smart city but it is estimated that only one per cent of data in a city, even a smart city, is collected and shared.
“In a cognitive city that figure is 90 per cent.”
Developers of the futuristic scheme, which was due to be completed by 2025, said Neom will be within four-hours reach of 40 per cent of the world's population.
It aims to be a home and workplace to more than one million people across the world.