How can cities around the world become smart and sustainable? In order to provide a valid answer, UNECE and OiER developed the global platform United Smart Cities (USC).
In 2016, UNECE initiated the worldwide initiative United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 16 UN agencies are involved in this. Using 92 performance indicators (Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, for smart sustainable cities), cities are evaluated according to their performance and their potential.
Forbes presents an exclusive list of five project cities that were examined by UNECE within the USC framework. What is striking is that the cities listed are not the ones that are typically famous worldwide, but rather are cities from developing countries, emerging markets and transition countries.
The city profile for Voznesensk was formulated at the request of the Ukrainian government. It is based on the same methodological approach as that of Goris. The recommendations focused in particular on infrastructure development, job creation, the attractiveness of investment and building up the capacities of local players. Some of the study’s practical recommendations comprise strengthening the tourism sector, improving the energy system, which includes increasing the share of renewable energy, waste management and collection operations, which includes the establishment of a common sewer system, increasing the capacity and equipment of hospitals, and creating better legislation to enable more sustainable access to the real estate market.
The cosmopolitan municipality of Bursa is focusing on upgrading the entire transport network by 2030. The project plan includes railway restorations and the construction of new roads, as well as connecting the existing cable car, which leads into the Uludag Mountain ski resort, with an urban cable car. This merger will bring Asia’s longest cable car further into the city. The cable car also offers a direct connection from the town to the surrounding recreational areas.
At the request of the Kazakh capital, the USC partners are working to develop a smart city district called Zholgas. The programme will implement several projects using the USC methodology. An old and very energy-intensive residential area of the city will be transformed into a smart, sustainable district. Some of the planned measures include reducing the district’s environmental impact, creating recreational facilities for citizens (including vulnerable groups), and developing smart mobility systems, which includes smart parking and barriers, traffic sensors and cycle paths. The USC partners are working with their key national partner, Astana Innovations JSC. This is an innovative branch of Astana’s municipal government.
The local city government is implementing the Smart City Project to improve flood risk management and modernising infrastructure to make it more resilient to environmental disasters. The project aims to support research on more effective policy planning and improve key indicators for a more resilient infrastructure. In addition, the Accra government is developing more sustainable water and sanitation management systems at the community level.
In response to the Armenian government’s request, UNECE developed a city profile for the city of Goris. The key indicators proved to be an efficient tool to analyze a city’s economic, environmental and socio-cultural potential to become smart. As the KPIs refer to the SDGs, their use also supported the development of evidence-based strategies for SDG 11 and other urban SDGs (three, five, nine and 13). The city profile contained policy recommendations and concrete proposals for infrastructure investment projects and for building up capacities to support sustainable housing and urban development. It also included recommendations on the restoration and preservation of cultural heritage, construction of social housing, creation of information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital infrastructure, and improvement of waste collection and treatment, including wastewater. The recommendations in the city profile were reflected in the city development plan approved by the City Council and the Armenian government’s Urban Development Committee.
In 2017, UNECE, ITU and other partners developed 92 international standards – the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Smart Sustainable Cities – within the framework of U4SSC. The aim of U4SSC is to provide cities with recommendations for making them smarter and more sustainable by means of information and communication technologies (ICT). It also generates the best practices. The 92 KPIs are subdivided into the areas of economy, environment and society and culture, each of which comprises further subgroups. This is intended to provide a holistic view of a city’s performance. Originally, the idea behind the KPIs was initiated by United Smart Cities (USC).
The KPIs are consistent with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 11 is explicitly addressed to sustainable cities and municipalities.
The KPIs are designed to help cities evaluate their progress towards the development goals (as well as the goal of becoming smarter and more sustainable). They provide cities with a standardized method for collecting data and provide guidance and support in measuring performance and progress. The KPIs cover roughly the following areas: ICT, transport, productivity, infrastructure, spatial planning, innovation, air quality, water and sanitation, waste, public spaces, energy, education, health, culture, security, housing.
Based on this, UNECE is preparing city profiles within the USC framework (Smart Sustainable City Profiles). In addition to performance and potential, these studies contain specific recommendations for action. The cities are supported by a team of international experts coordinated by UNECE and local specialists in order to mold these recommendations into a strategic plan (City Action Plan).