What’s the quality of life in your city?
Last weekend, my family and I celebrated the ancient Midsummer holiday just like the majority of Swedes. And just like many Stockholmers, we left the city in favor of traditional Swedish feasts in the beautiful nature Swedish countryside. Once we arrived, my daughter commented on the fresh air, the absence of traffic and all the birds we could hear. And we come from the city that is ranked highest in this year’s Networked Society City Index. This reflects what we see in the Networked Society City Index – there are no fully sustainable cities, not even the top-performing ones.
To make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable is the 11th of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, essentially the global urbanization will play a role in every one of the Sustainable Development Goals since rural and urban areas are intertwined in terms of resources such as food, water, air, materials. ICT will also play a vital role in every one of the SDGs by providing essential basic infrastructure to help achieve the goals.
Our Networked Society City Index 2016 shows that less affluent cities may have low climate impact and low resource use, but conversely they have problems with high pollution levels and consequently also health levels. It is of the utmost importance foer these cities to decouple continued socioeconomic progress from negative impact on the environment. For more affluent cities, challenges mostly concern their environmental impact and equality such as carbon emissions and air pollution.
Generally we see that the social and economic dimensions have a strong and positive correlation with increasing ICT maturity, but in the environmental dimension, the picture is more complex. However, our prediction is that the current scattered correlation will evolve into a picture in which ICT is increasingly intertwined with environmental performance.
Ericsson has recently researched the effect that ICT could have on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and concluded that ICT solutions could help to reduce these by up to 15 percent by 2030. This equals around 10 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalents: more than the current carbon footprint of the EU and US combined. This includes ICT solutions within agriculture, energy, buildings, travel and transportation, work, and services. This was also one of our key messages in our joint UN-Habitat Ericsson report for the Paris climate meeting in December last year. In our ongoing collaboration with UN-Habitat, the UN agency tasked with creating a better urban future, we are exploring how ICT-enabled solutions for cities can drive progress toward SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Ericsson has also done a joint research report together with Earth Institute at Columbia University with contributions from International Telecom Union and GSMA. The report highlights ICT’s role in accelerating action of the by 2030 focusing on areas such as economic growth, healthcare, education, energy and the above findings on climate change.
To operate sustainably, cities should use ICT in a way that not only meets stakeholders’ initial sustainability requirements but that also enables the ongoing rebalancing of needs, resources and other priorities, such as the right to privacy. Furthermore, modern city leaders have a growing awareness of the importance of effective civic engagement based on availability of public information, efficient and integrated service delivery, and effective mechanisms for participatory governance and decision-making.
Future Networked Society cities hold the key to solving our global challenges by continuously identifying the sustainability requirements, building upon synergies across departmental boundaries and disciplines, achieve economies of scale and – at the same time – creating new value in economic, environmental and social dimensions using ICT. Local authorities need to harness technology, investment and new types of partnerships to achieve the global goals and specifically the Sustainable Cities goal.
More than 100 years ago, when new types of transportation modes were introduced, cities started to greatly expand, and today we talk about urban sprawl. But that development also enabled those who had resources to move from the industrial areas to other separate communities while keeping their work as managers in industries. My vision is that ICT can be one of the main technologies that can help plan and develop prosperous livable cities where we love to be and hence don’t have to leave to rest and recover. And I hope that ICT will be one of the major topics at this year’s UN conference on urban settlement, Habitat III.
What is your Networked Society city vision?