Time to take society in a sustainable direction with ICT

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No city on earth is sustainable. And sustainability is now widely regarded as the most pressing issue facing humanity. Change is needed, and change has already begun. Collaborative partnerships and research cooperation between academic institutes and industrial and public organizations are leading this change; one such example is the innovative research on ICT for sustainability being undertaken at KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s VINNOVA Centre for Sustainable Communications (CESC) in Stockholm, Sweden.

According to the United Nations, the global population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050 – with roughly 70 percent of people living in cities. But dealing with the expected tremendous growth rate isn’t the only problem policy makers are facing. The need to deal with the population explosion is just as pressing as the need to create more self-sufficient and sustainable cities. Both objectives must be achieved in symbiosis. And to do so, policy makers rely on the guidance of experts from a wide range of players in the academic, industrial, and public sectors.

Together with six other partners (KTH, City of Stockholm, Coop, Täby Municipality, TeliaSonera, and Stockholm County Council), Ericsson is helping CESC to conduct innovative research on ICT for sustainability with the aim of contributing to a change of society in a sustainable direction.

Since its establishment in 2007, CESC has produced hundreds of publications aimed at providing policy makers in city authorities with the knowledge and resources they need to make informed decisions about the sustainable future of their cities and society as a whole. Christer Törnevik, Head of Sustainability Research at Ericsson Research and Chairman of the Board at CESC, says that while all the parties involved in the research cooperation benefit from the partnership in their respective ways, the true benefit will be realized by the sustainable society of the future.

“The ultimate goal of CESC is to contribute to sustainable development and change society in a sustainable direction using ICT,” Törnevik says. “For CESC to be successful, you need the ICT industry to be there, and Ericsson is one of the biggest players in the ICT industry. From an Ericsson point of view, we get competence and knowledge from this unique group of researchers that we couldn’t find anywhere else. But the true benefit is that now our research is becoming more and more directed at policy makers around the world. If we can provide them with the best possible research and recommendations that influence them to make informed decisions toward a sustainable future and how ICT can enable that, then we have achieved our goal.”

Christer Törnevik, Head of Sustainability Research at Ericsson and Chairman of the Board at CESC.

Christer Törnevik, Head of Sustainability Research at Ericsson and Chairman of the Board at CESC.

Released today, the 2016 edition of the Networked Society City Index ranks cities based on ICT maturity and their performance in sustainable urban development. For the first time, the 2016 edition includes the city boundaries concept, which seeks to capture a city’s environmental performance in relation to absolute targets rather than according to their relative performance: put simply, the sustainability level at which different cities around the world are operating. Three areas are included in the city boundaries environmental framework concept: climate change (greenhouse gas emissions), air pollution (fine particle level PM2.5), and energy balance (percentage of fossil-free energy in the energy consumed).

"Networked Society for sustainable development

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KTH professor Mattias Höjer, who leads CESC’s daily operations as Centre Director, says publications like the Networked Society City Index, with its inclusion of the city boundaries concept, serve as a great starting point for raising awareness, generating dialogue, and prompting action and planning toward creating sustainable urban environments. “I like that Ericsson has included the city boundaries concept in its Networked Society City Index Report,” Höjer says. “It spurs thought and is a great way to help promote discussions and give researchers an idea as to where they should conduct further research to gain insights and recommendations for how to create sustainable urban environments.

KTH professor Mattias Höjer, Centre Director at CESC.

KTH professor Mattias Höjer, Centre Director at CESC.

“I would like to see further collaboration with the cities, where they can see the results and opportunities where they could improve on the different metrics to work toward becoming more sustainable. Reports such as this are just one step toward generating enough awareness among policy makers to take some real action.” Find out more about the innovative research that KTH and its partners are conducting at CESC by visiting its website, and discover the ICT maturity level and performance in sustainable urban development of cities around the world in the 2016 edition of the Networked Society City Index.