By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will be living in cities – producing an ever greater share of the planet’s economic output. It is in cities that the most critical decisions and actions relating to resource consumption and carbon emissions will be taken.
Urban populations are growing and rural populations declining, and cities will play the pivotal role in the world’s achievement or otherwise of most of the UNDP Sustainable Development Goals. However, in order to maximize their potential as positive agents of change, cities need to:
Become digitally smart – effectively deploy information and communication technologies to execute governance, stimulate citizen action, and share learnings across institutions and among cities;
Become physically smart – transform infrastructure and processes for flows of energy, materials, services and financing to catalyse sustainable development, resilience, and a higher quality of life; and
Become economically smart – establish local ecosystems through which citizens and businesses can share assets and resources, and collaborate to meet specific goals.
The modes of ‘smartness’ apply pervasively: extending from municipal services, transport, energy and healthcare, to the choices that citizens make as consumers, to the physical space (for example, resource-efficient buildings).
Cities tend to be benchmarked on various criteria cutting across three dimensions: liveability (quality of life, urban mobility); workability (income equality, working environment and economic productivity); and sustainability (e.g., resource and energy efficiency, pollution and environmental protection). Smart cities excel in how they improve on all three dimensions