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The cities of tomorrow

The world is entering a new era, where the economic and political importance of cities is growing rapidly. Today, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and urban concentration is accelerating. Therefore, cities are vital for solving major social, environmental, and economic challenges. Ensuring that our cities are creative, connected and sustainable is a major challenge but also an opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people along with the health and future of the planet itself.

Beyond Smart Cities

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are proven as enablers of change and have a great potential to continue to promote sustainable growth.

A group of youngster sit on a terrace using tablets

Collaboration, digitalization, automation, the Internet of Things, and virtualization are some key concepts that come with the continued development of ICT. Smart cities, smart grids and intelligent transportation initiatives all rely on these ICT concepts, but it is clear that very few, if any, have harnessed their full potential. Today, concepts like smart cities, smart grids, and intelligent transportation are mainly used to optimize existing systems and behaviors. This approach leads to more sustainable cities, but has its limitations. Cities need to rethink how to change existing structures to fully grasp the potential provided by ICT. This involves new urban planning and design in combination with groundbreaking policy development and strategies. This development is of utmost importance for cities to become attractive, sustainable, and vibrant.

The future Networked Society city

The future Networked Society city, which goes beyond the smart cities of today, has the following characteristics: resilience, collaboration, participation and mobility.

Download the 2016 Networked Society City Index to learn more about the future Networked Society city, which goes beyond the smart cities of today.

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Cities in the Networked Society

The Networked Society City Index ranks cities based on their performance in sustainable urban development and ICT maturity. The 2016 index is topped by Stockholm, London, Singapore, Paris, and Copenhagen. Interestingly, the race for third position is closely contested, with Paris and Singapore again swapping positions.

Figure 2 – 2016 Networked Society City Index ranking and the relation between TBL and ICT

The correlation between ICT maturity and TBL shows that cities’ ICT maturity largely mirrors their position on the development ladder. A high level of sustainable urban development is typically correlated to high ICT maturity. Affluent cities have reaped the benefits of early industrialization and are indeed able to invest more in ICT and are, partly due to preconditions, better at utilizing ICT investments than developing economies.

Download the 2016 Networked Society City Index to learn more about how the cities are ranked based on their performance in sustainable urban development and ICT maturity.

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Decoupling socioeconomic progress from increased resource use

Of the three sustainability dimensions measured in the index, the social and economic indicators correlate more closely with increasing ICT maturity than the environmental indicators, as socioeconomic progress typically increases the environmental footprint.

Looking ahead, it is expected that technology will be a critical enabler in securing the necessary decoupling of continued socioeconomic progress with environmental degradation. Different technology in transportation and buildings, as well as carbon-neutral energy production, are examples of how innovations in new technology are increasingly pushing development in this direction. Moreover, on an industrial level, intelligent transportation, smart electricity grids, interactive e-health, and individualized e-learning are some of the ICT solutions that bring much-needed socioeconomic progress under the new condition of diminishing society’s environmental impact. Equally, ICT can bring new innovative opportunities for social entrepreneurship by enabling the inclusion of groups previously left outside banking, insurance systems, health care systems, and the labor market.

As cities invest in ICT, it is both appropriate and reasonable to make a long-term prediction of the relationship between cities’ environmental performance and ICT maturity. Our prediction is that the current scattered correlation will evolve into a picture where ICT is increasingly intertwined with environmental performance.

Introducing city boundaries concept

No cities in the Networked Society City Index are sustainable, not even the top performers. Less affluent cities may have low climate impact and low resource use, but they have problems with high pollution levels and consequently also lower health levels.

The city boundaries concept illustrates cities’ environmental performance in relation to absolute targets rather than according to their relative performance. Our aim is to relate a city’s environmental performance to globally recognized limits.

A woman in front of an interactive screen

As an example, three areas are included in the city boundaries concept: climate change, air pollution, and fossil-free energy consumption. The climate change target is based on findings from the United Nations Environment Programme (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) regarding the amount of CO2 that can be sustainably consumed per global inhabitant (in this report the city boundary is illustrated at around 1.8 tonnes per capita). The air quality target follows WHO’s 2005 air quality guidelines for annual PM2.5 (10 μg/m3), and the goal for fossil-free energy is to have 100 percent decarbonized energy consumption.

London is ranked second in the Networked Society City Index

London is ranked second in the Networked Society City Index. However, when applying city boundaries to London, it is clear that the city needs to improve its performanceLondon is ranked second in the Networked Society City Index. However, when applying city boundaries to London, it is clear that the city needs to improve its performance. London fails to meet any of the city boundary targets, and is especially unsustainable when it comes to climate change.. London fails to meet any of the city boundary targets, and is especially unsustainable when it comes to climate change.

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All cities face great challenges to become sustainable. For more affluent cities, these challenges mostly concern their environmental impact. For less affluent cities, socioeconomic progress is a priority. However, decoupling continued socioeconomic progress from a negative impact on the environment is of utmost importance. And cities hold the key to solving our global challenges.

Download the 2016 Networked Society City Index to learn more about Networked Society for sustainable development.

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Interactive City Index tool

City Index Map

Ericsson’s Networked Society City Index provides an inspiring contribution to urban development around the world. The index examines and ranks 41 world cities, providing a framework for measuring ICT maturity in relation to social, economic and environmental progress. It can be used to exploit emerging possibilities associated with a connected world.

See how your city measures up in the interactive City Index tool.

How to use the Networked Society City Index Interactive Tool.


Cities play key role in sustainable development

Infograf City Index 2016

The world is entering a new era where the economic and political importance of cities is growing rapidly. Today, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities and urban concentration is accelerating. Therefore, cities are vital for solving major social, environmental and economic challenges.

Download the infographic


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