The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 25 April 2018

Current affairs

Image: Getty Images

Raise your defences?

Yet another large-scale attack is raising questions about urban security.

Alek Minassian, the man suspected of intentionally running over pedestrians with a van in Toronto on Monday, was charged yesterday with 10 counts of first-degree murder. Prime minister Justin Trudeau spoke in the foyer of the House of Commons, reassuring the country that “at this time we have no reason to suspect there is any national security element to this attack”. The city is still in mourning and the police investigation is ongoing (even the motive is as yet unknown) but already questions about urban security are being raised, much as they were in the aftermath of similar attacks in Nice, London, Barcelona and New York. Toronto is now faced with the same challenges all too many cities have had to battle in recent years – most importantly, how to keep citizens safe without turning the city’s streets and squares into fortresses.

Urbanism

Image: Alamy

Ask the audience

Should citizens ever be responsible for their cities? A London conference revealed a few conflicting opinions.

If everyone agrees with each other, a conference can be about as exciting as low-fat yoghurt for dinner. So when we headed to Crowdsourcing the City in London yesterday, we were pleased to find that two of the panellists had different takes on citizens being allowed to make decisions. For Miguel Arana Catania, director of citizen participation for Madrid City Council, which allows residents to determine how to spend €100m of the metropolis’s budget, it’s a win-win. “When we ask citizens to make the decisions it’s always better – they know how to improve society,” he says. But mayor of West Sacramento Christopher Cabaldon says that while he is an advocate of crowdsourcing, people often make decisions that are not progressive (many of the same people who elected him also voted against gay marriage, even though they knew he was gay). “There’s this mystical idea that if we go deep enough there’s a highly moral view that can create nirvana,” says Cabaldon. “But in the past two years in the US, despite record levels of engagement, that’s just not true.” For more on the debate listen to the forthcoming episode of The Urbanist this Thursday on Monocle 24.

Economy

Image: Getty Images

Computer says no

Thailand is working with Chinese tech giant Alibaba to boost its appeal to foreign investors: but will the Thai workforce be up to the task?

Thailand has partnered with Chinese technology giant Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma (pictured), to speed up the development of Thailand’s digital economy. It’s part of the government’s THB43bn (€1.1bn) strategy to attract high-tech foreign investment to Thailand’s eastern provinces, a project known as the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). According to Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu, senior researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, who conducted a study of the EEC, the scheme is about promoting Thailand “as a regional hub for digital and e-commerce businesses”. But there’s a snag. “What’s most challenging for Thailand in this case is the readiness of the digital workforce. The quality of Thai undergraduates cannot meet the business demand. It may make companies, including Alibaba, choose not to invest in high-value-added activity here but just make use of Thailand as a hub [from which] to distribute to neighbouring countries.”

F&B

Remove from heat

Here’s something to chew on: should more restaurants spurn media coverage in favour of bubbling along rather nicely on their own, thank you very much?

The inaugural issue of The Monocle Drinking & Dining Directory went to print this week, stuffed with stories (and a few saucy opinions) on all things food-focused. But there’s one morsel worth pondering that didn’t make it to press. A favourite Tokyo restaurant of ours, to which we offered a Monocle Restaurant Award, politely and poignantly declined the offer of coverage. In an era where popularity is measured in clicks and “likes” it’s heartening to see somewhere spurn a mention; it shows confidence and it’s a policy we won’t undermine by naming it here now or in print. It’s also a reminder that the best restaurants aren’t always the ones that people rave about, and that the places that last sometimes do so by being popular in their own neighbourhoods. If, however, you are hungry for other finds, the brand-new issue is on newsstands from 3 May.

From Monocle 24

Nendo’s Oki Sato

Monocle on Design

We sit down with the founder of Japanese design studio Nendo and discuss juggling 400 projects at once and why he thinks technology should be simplified.

From Monocle Films

How to fix your high street: Frome

We visit a monthly market in the unassuming Somerset town that’s proving easy sell to locals, buoying local businesses and luring in punters from miles around.

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