Strategies for the sustainable development of cities in Asia and the Pacific will be driven to a large extent by information and communication technologies (ICT), agreed participants at the fourth ITU Green Standards Week held last week in Beijing, China.
More than half the world?s megacities ? home to more than 10 million people ? are located in Asia and the Pacific. Cities are powerful engines of economic growth, accounting for 70-80 percent of Asia-Pacific?s GDP, but the inability of city infrastructures to develop at a pace matching rates of urbanization has given rise to a strong correlation between urbanization and environmental degradation.
The ITU Green Standards Week in Beijing was the first to be held in the Asia-Pacific region. Participants highlighted the region?s view of ICTs as crucial to sustainable development, expected to enable efficiency gains in areas such as energy distribution and consumption, transportation systems, water management and waste disposal.
A connected citizenry is also seen as a route to better access to education and healthcare as well as to more collaborative city governance.
Green Standards Week concluded by advocating a prominent catalytic role for ICTs in international and regional urban development strategies. This view was supported at the Rio+20 Summit as well as at the recent United Nations Summit on Climate Change that took place in New York on September 23.
In a message, ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Tour? said: ?ICTs need to play a strategic role in the development of renewable energy, with sustainable cities being key to CO2 reduction and energy management.?
?ICTs must themselves become more environmentally efficient, but they also have a central role to play in decreasing the environmental impact of other industry sectors,? said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU?s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.
?This is now becoming well understood, but that took years of advocacy, including ITU?s participation in the UN climate change conferences, in order to gain this recognition.?
A new call to action was issued at the event, charging ITU with the promotion of ?smart sustainable cities? that integrate ?smart? technologies in city infrastructures and operations to increase environmental efficiency and socio-economic wellbeing.
The call to action calls for stronger cooperation between the energy and ICT sectors and emphasizes the value of international technical standards in ensuring that smart-city solutions see the benefits of economies of scale and interoperability.
It tasks ITU to provide a platform to discuss the necessary regulatory environment and gives strong impetus to ITU?s ongoing development of an internationally standardized methodology to assess the environmental impact of ICTs in cities.
In addition, it calls for the development of a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) for cities to measure their progress in the integration of ICTs as part of smart sustainable city strategies in collaboration with the energy industry.