Azerbaijan eyes smart cities, and Israel might be able to help

Rachel Brooks 

March 16, 2021 

Smart cities are a topic of the future, but they aren’t entirely new. The above image is from the ODSC event in 2014.

Image credit: “Open Data Estafette Smart Cities #ODSC” by marieke_schenk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With the end of the Second Karabakh conflict episode, talks for the future of the western region of Azerbaijan have been making headlines. The nation has major plans for the reclaimed territory, with ideas to bring it back from the bring of immolation caused by war ordinance and years of neglect as an occupied zone. 

Earlier this month, Israel offered to assist Azerbaijan in its rebuilding expedition (Israel Hayom.) Now, with the subject of smart cities (The Jamestown Foundation), a means of shifting Azerbaijani reliance on the fossil fuel industry into alternative energy sectors, Israel’s proposal may be of help to the South Caucasus nation’s pursuits. 

Azerbaijan has been approached by a host of other countries as well for this purpose, as investment potential seems ready to rise exponentially for this reason. With an established relationship based on cultural solidarity, as well as a defense contracting and energy sector pre-existing investment portfolio, Israel would be a glove fit partner for Azerbaijan’s plans in this field. 

The Middle East takes charge of the smart city revolution 

The Middle East boasts “booming” smart city innovation. Global Smart Cities, a publication of Data Bridge Market Research,  reports mass investments in the region by such as Huawei, Intel, and more. With ambitious projects such as the Saudi Crown Prince’s “Neom” making headlines, the Middle East appears poised to supercharge the challenge of converting standing cities into smart zones and raising new cities on smart technology. 

Israel’s cutting edge smart city tech a subject of international study 

Professional review of the Israeli touch to smart cities appeared in the Inter-American Development Bank journal as far back as 2018. The IDB, together with the American governmental organization the Housing and Urban Development Department, (HUD), collaborated with the Knowledge, Innovation and Communication Department (KIC). The paper, in the pursuit of bettering Latin America, the Caribbean, and other regions of the Americas, researched the driving forces of Israeli smart city tech. It also looked at the technology that is developed in Israel for this purpose. 

Adding further to the “western seal of approval” attitude toward Israel as a smart city aficionado, the Wall Street Journal even called Israel “a catalyst” for smart city solutions. Israel leads the way because 92 percent of its citizens live in urbanized areas, and the smart technologies described in wonder in world research are applied to daily life in the tiny Middle Eastern nation. 

Azerbaijan is new to the smart city “neighborhood

With war and infrastructural crisis resulting from it, Azerbaijan has not had the opportunity to pursue smart cities before. At this close of the second Karabakh conflict, and the standing hopes that peace pipeline communications will make a lasting conflict pause this time, Azerbaijan would be a “new kid on the block” of sorts in the neighborhood of smart city development. For this reason, the nation is likely to consult the best and brightest of those established in this trade. Israel makes a logical first choice for the Caucasus nation, as a familiar face. 

Abraham Accords might bridge gaps for ME collaborations 

Along with the pause in the Karabakh conflict, the Middle East’s recent adoption of the Abraham Accords for inter-Gulf business relations with Israel adds another chapter of potential. With the Abraham Accords opening the door for collaboration between the established minds of smart city science in the Middle East, this may also pave more opportunities for collaborations of Gulf nations with Israel in any mutual interest assisting Azerbaijani smart city development. Holland&Knight Law stated in December that the Abraham Accords were “unlocking” business potential in the Middle East through “increased bilateral cooperation.”