Friday, September 29, 2017

The role of innovation and participation in smart sustainable cities

Working Group 3 of the U4SSC initiative explored the potential of ICT to improve cities, public services, open data and inclusive smart governance models.

One of the results of the first phase in the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative is the Flipbook published by Working Group 3, which concentrates on promoting innovation and participation in Smart Sustainable Cities. The U4SSC is a joint effort of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), theRegional Bureau for Sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UN Environment),  the United Nations Environment Programme Financial Initiative (UNEP-FI), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations University-Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Flipbook presents the results of the group's research , which took place over a period of ten months, into the potential of ICT to contribute to smart governance models, open data, economic growth, smart finance and R&D (Research and Development), always with a focus on public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The conclusion underlying the different case studies is that the transition to smart sustainable cities is facilitated when governance, society and the economy are well-coordinated and cooperate with each other. In that sense, certain concepts apply to different urban environments, regardless of their differences.

Some of the cases cited were from India, and one particularly noteworthy case is that of the Hyderabad Airport. This is  a PPP that puts into practice the concept of an Aerotropolis –that is, of developing self-sustainable cities around airports– as one way of taking Indian urban development to the next level.

The initiative brought together different stakeholders: the Indian government, state governments, private sector companies, local financial institutions and foreign direct investors. Specifically, the government's Ministry of Civil Aviation improved the regulatory environment by establishing a new Civil Aviation Authority with complete financial and operational autonomy. The PPP model for airport development allowed for the privatization and modernization of airports in metropolitan and non-metropolitan cities, prioritized the development of regional and remote connectivity in the country and lastly, it simplified the regulations for construction in areas near the airport in order to accelerate local development.

As a result of the Indian government's focus on PPPs, there are numerous new airport projects in India, namely: seven airports will be built in Andhra Pradesh, with private investment totaling INR 10-20 billion; another five domestic airports will be built in Maharashtra; and an international airport will be built in Uttar Pracesh (INR 3.5 billion), amongst others. The document drafted by Working Group 3 concludes by stating that the PPP model has great potential in infrastructure in a country like India, which needs long-term sustainable infrastructure plans to create an environment for private investment and fast project execution.

Another one of the cases presented features Dubai, the world's smart city prototype, and its use of blockchain. Dubai is the first city to explore the potential of this technology in depth and on a large scale. For instance,  in October 2016, Dubai launched a strategy to be the first city powered by blockchain, a tool that it will use to manage the economy until 2020.

The blockchain strategy, which wasimplemented by the Dubai Smart Office,  is based on three pillars, namely: governmental efficiency, industry creation and local and international leadership in the development of technology and skills related to it. With regards to the first point, this year pilot projects  will be launched to apply blockchain to government services, before a complete rollout takes place next year. Specifically, blockchain is expected to be applied to transactions in which third parties or intermediaries need to be eliminated, in sectors such as energy, transportation, logistics, tourism, health, education, employment, security and social services, amongst others.

Dubai also plans to create a blockchain industry in which start-ups and private companies can develop. In particular, the strategy focuses on four areas, namely: policy development; blockchain accelerators; competition between global start-ups; and the commitment of the private sector, in this regard,  the first Global Blockchain Council, with 46 members, was developed to drive the ecosystem. In addition, and in order to promote leadership in the blockchain, the pilot project includes an award (the International Blockchain Award), an academic debate series and activities with the educational system.

Dubai's efforts are intended to inspire the use of blockchain in other places, even those that are reluctant to dive into the technology. The Dubai government believes that the model can be replicated perfectly in other cities.

Through these and other case studies, U4SSC Working Group 3 concluded that public services should be provided to users digitally, conveniently and easily, and aim for the highest levels of digital adoption. Among the other concepts contained in the document, is the idea that smart sustainable cities should consider delivering services and solutions together, in a way that creates operational efficiencies through savings in public funds and that they should also provide open data to enable simple and convenient access to city information and identify smart financing mechanisms with close collaboration between public and private sectors.

For more details on the Flipbook on "Enhancing innovation and participation in smart sustainable cities", access here. Also, you can check the Methodology to collect KPIs on Smart and Sustainable Cities.