Delivering on UN Sustainable Development Goals

Albert Seubers

Atos Director, Global Strategy Smart X

In 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) were adopted by all UN Member States as a universal call to action to deliver a series of global socioeconomic and environmental ambitions by 2030.

Integration and empowerment

Balancing social, economic and environmental sustainability, many of the 17 UN SDGs go to the heart of any city’s strategy to meet the needs of growing and aging populations, and tackle rises in crime, an increasing wealth gap and air and noise pollution. While the SDGs are naturally interdependent, SDG 11 specifically aims “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” So, how are smart city authorities working towards this goal?Given the scale, complexity and interconnectedness of sustainability challenges, cities need integrated strategies that deliver holistic services while engaging citizens to make better everyday choices. Underpinning these strategies, public data management platforms are required to gather and leverage huge volumes of data from diverse sources. From here, a single, real-time view of the availability and demand for services is available, both for city authorities in their planning and for citizens to access day-to-day.

Integrated mobility

Take mobility for example: a modern integrated mobility strategy is essential to minimize environmental impacts and connect citizens to economic opportunities, education and health services. Essentially, this is about reducing emissions and getting people out of their cars and onto walkways, bikes and safe and efficient public transport networks; and it’s about managing the flow of private, public, commercial and emergency vehicles.Mobility-as-a-Service platforms and subscription services can seamlessly present information about all available options to take a citizen from their doorstop to their end destination — from bus times for the metro, to the platform number of their train, to the availability of a bicycle parked for hire outside the metro station, to the availability of elevators and escalators for wheelchair users.

Lowering emissions

Smart traffic management systems can dynamically prioritize emergency response and commercial delivery vehicles in real time to reduce pollution, lower emissions and increase quality of life. In the case of commercial deliveries, different logistics providers can now collaborate using blockchain to manage deliveries door to door, including any transfer of responsibility along the journey.Given the shift in energy use away from oil and gas, e-cars and hydrogen-fueled trucks will increasingly be part of the new mobility mix, again enabled by an integrated strategy and citizen empowerment. One major priority is how to provide the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles at home and in public spaces, including real-time information for citizens on free spaces.

Green energy

In every case, as citizens, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I really need to travel?”Such choices and decisions have recently been brought into sharp focus as more and more people have needed to work from home. While employers must ensure that the necessary digital workplace solutions are in place, cities must take responsibility for the establishment of communication network backbones in public spaces.

More broadly, green energy strategies include installing infrastructure for distributing locally produced energy from renewable sources, such as solar panels and local waste gasification, and using data to forecast demand and distribute energy. Citizens have a vital role here and cities need clear strategies to support the implementation of multiple technologies for green energy. Imagine if bio-waste from households could be combined with green waste from city parks and turned into energy at the neighborhood level, and the impact this would have on waste collection and management.

Aiding city planning

At the same time, cities are taking action to minimize the impacts of the built environment on people and quality of life. Given that many different organizations are involved in creating this environment, developing an understanding of the current situation and being able to simulate the broad impacts of different plans and scenarios is highly valuable.Again, emerging technologies have a key part of play. Spatial computing, for example, combines virtual reality with text, sound or images that enhance the user’s understanding and experience. By creating a spatial model of a city, city planners and others can simulate scenarios to understand and analyze the effects of any changes.

Building resilience

There are many different facets of planning the resilience of a city. Flooding and stormwater management has become an important topic, with many cities needing to increase their capacity to absorb rainwater instead of draining it off through sewage systems.There has, of course, been another major resilience factor affecting daily lives and the economy of cities. Some years ago, Vienna started implementing an early warning system related to the risks of spreading diseases such as measles in order to ensure the necessary health system responses. Now, we have seen that the city has updated this same system to manage the effects of a virus outbreak.

Shared ambitions

With the growing number of people living in cities, integrated public planning approaches, processes and technology platforms must be in place for a truly holistic approach to delivering clean water, sanitation, energy, food, mobility, education, healthcare, economic opportunity and public safety.UN SDG 11 is really about the role of cities as hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity and social development. A partnership between citizens and city authorities is at the heart of these ambitions; together they can shape the life of smart cities to create positive sustainable impacts and, ultimately, help end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all. A data-driven approach is a key enabler to achieve these goals.


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