SINGAPORE - The true test of how ready a city is to tackle all threats is how well it operates in storms as well as in sunny conditions.
Urban resilience has long been the desired goal for urban planners and city dwellers alike.
Now, such resilience is a must-have because deep-pocket corporations and investors are saying they want to move their assets only to cities that will not be shaken easily by sudden or prolonged shocks, whether they are flash floods, smog or a dearth of younger skilled workers.
That's according to global government and education chief Jeffrey Rhoda of technology giant IBM, the company that has long been a champion of the idea of smart cities.
In fact, Mr Rhoda said, the United Nations' new International Strategy for Disaster Reduction secretariat will soon introduce a resilience scorecard to assess how well cities respond to serious stresses such as a thick wind-blown haze or continued mining that strips nutrients from land inhabited by 1.5 billion people.
He said it was now no longer enough to be a smart city or one brimming with bright people, big-name universities and spanking-new systems to capture and crunch data on patterns of urban life. "Investors are looking beyond skills and education to really resilient cities," Mr Rhoda told delegates on Thursday at the Future of Urban Living meet here.
The day-long powwow was organised jointly by the Ministry of National Development's Centre for Liveable Cities and the Eisenhower Fellowships chapter in Singapore. Its president is Ms Lim Soo Hoon, the permanent secretary for performance in the Ministry of Finance.
The trick is knowing exactly when and how to strengthen a city against new threats, said Mr Jordan Schwartz, the World Bank's Singapore-based manager for infrastructure policy.
Mr Schwartz noted that responding decisively to uncertainty needed intuition and experience. He likened it to his 10-year-old daughter, who knew exactly when to jump into the middle of two skipping ropes being held and swung in opposite directions by her two friends.
Mr Schwartz was speaking in a pre-recorded video after being recalled to the United States before the start of the conference.
He added: "That is how a city must function today - understand the moving parts of any situation and jump in at the right point.
But urban planners want to be able to predict and replicate things. So they turn to models."
But life was not static like modelling, which is about thinking up scenarios and predicting their likely outcomes.