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Smart Cities: How can we make our cities smarter?

Smart Cities and Geospatial
The burgeoning population impacts all aspects of city life including housing, mobility, utilities, infrastructure, health etc.

More than 50% of the world population lives in cities today, a proportion expected to reach almost 66% by 2050. The burgeoning population impacts all aspects of city life including housing, mobility, utilities, infrastructure, health etc. It’s not a surprise that most countries are heavily focusing on making cities smarter that make good use integrated technologies in order to ensure better resource management, improved and safer living conditions for its citizens and create jobs that can help the economies grow stronger.

Understanding that the task of making our cities smarter is not the prerogative of any one entity, public agencies, private organisations, research and academic institutions as well as civil societies and citizens, need to convene together to achieve success.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) thus launched the United Smart Cities initiative in May 2014 with the aim of establishing a platform to share experiences and best practices among the cities in the UNECE region. In particular, the initiative is focused on countries with economies in transition. At the national level, it aims at supporting policy makers to establish an institutional framework which enables innovation and smart urban solutions. At the local level, it aims at supporting local authorities and relevant stakeholders by providing them with recommendations to promote sustainable urban development. One of the outputs of the initiative is the development of Smart Cities Indicators,  which will help to evaluate the current status of a city and monitor the changes done and are developed by a well represented stakeholder network in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the beginning of the project timeline, in May 2014, UNECE partnered with Geospatial Media and Communications to organise a two-day workshop that explored some of the key milestones needed for building Smart Cities. This year, UNECE and Geospatial Media are organising the second part of the workshop at INSPIRE Geospatial World Forum on 26-27 May, 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal to measure the progress made by few pilot cities.

The programme has three distinct set of speakers representing:

  • Private companies like Thomson Reuters, Trimble, Hexagon, Esri etc giving a rich overview of the latest available technologies for making cities smarter, which are at the same time scalable, sustainable, secure and easy to use and have the capability to get integrated with many other systems and solutions.
  • Smart City examples from Cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Glasgow, Rakvere, Goris, Lisbon on how these cities have applied various such solutions to streamline their property valuation, transport management, citizen-centric services, utilities infrastructure etc.
  • Policy makers and multilateral agencies sharing their initiatives for establishing simple and measurable smart cities indicators, monitoring process and creating resource and energy efficient systems.

What are your thoughts on this issue? What are the essential technologies that enable cities to become ‘smarter’? What policies, institutional framework support its formation? How can we assess or measure progress made for achieving Smarter Cities? What are some of the key indicators or milestones?

I would like to hear from my peers in the industry, as I will have the opportunity to pose your questions to the speakers at the forum and will thereafter share their response and general proceedings of the two-day programme with you in my next post.

Looking forward to your comments….