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Smart sustainable cities need holistic approach, say global stakeholders

by david.nunes

Smart sustainable cities need holistic approach, say global stakeholders

Technology will be key to meeting urban development challenges

Geneva, 9 May 2013 – Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a crucial role to play in tackling the developmental challenges facing the cities that are becoming our primary choice of habitation in the 21st century, concluded participants attending the 8th ITU Symposium on ICT and Environment Change, held in Turin, 6-7 May.

An estimated 65% of the world’s population now lives in cities. With an additional 1.3 million people moving from rural to urban areas every week, by 2050 more than six billion people will be living in urban agglomerations. In addition, the size of conurbations continues to grow, with the number of mega-cities of over 10 million inhabitants growing from just two in 1950 to 22 by 2015, 17 of which will be located in the developing world.

The symposium highlighted the importance of a globally coordinated approach and internationally standardized technologies in the creation of new ‘smart sustainable cities’. Greater integration of ICTs into urban planning will greatly facilitate opportunities for economic growth and social well-being, from better access to education and healthcare through to improved prospects of employment and living standards. The symposium concluded by issuing a call for stronger advocacy at the international level and for ICT policies to be integrated into the ongoing dialogues on urban development within the UN and other organizations.

Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General, ITU, “Rapid urbanization and high-density populations foment innovation and economic growth but also give rise to social, economic and environmental challenges, as cities’ infrastructures develop slower than the influx of new inhabitants. ICTs can make our cities safer, cleaner, and more convenient places to live.”

The event, which was hosted by Telecom Italia, supported by Huawei and co-organized by ITU and Italy’s Ministry for Economic Development, wrapped-up with a new Roadmap calling on ITU to promote the use of ‘smart’ technologies in cities and tasking it with developing a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess the impact of ICTs in cities and countries.

Speaking at the close of the event, Malcolm Johnson, Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU, said the potential of ICTs in urban development can only be achieved if applications seamlessly interoperate, regardless of service provider or vendor. This will require the development of international standards, harmonized frequency spectrum, and the application of enabling policies and best practices.

He cited examples of how ICTs can ease the pressure of urban life, including intelligent transport systems to reduce traffic and pollution; open-data enabling citizens to take charge of their own environments; and universal access to broadband creating a level playing field of opportunities for the urban under-privileged.

Participants at the two-day workshop submitted their conclusions to the Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities (SSC), which met in the same venue on 8 May. The Focus Group, which is open to all interested stakeholders, will work towards fulfilling the actions in the Roadmap and report to its parent group, ITU-T Study Group 5 on Environment and Climate Change, with a view to promoting adoption of international standards that will provide the foundation for Smart Sustainable Cities around the world.

About ITU

ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology. For nearly 150 years, ITU has coordinated the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoted international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, worked to improve communication infrastructure in the developing world, and established the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to new-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology and converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. www.itu.int

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