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July 4, 2018

How ITU supports Smart Cities in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond

By Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, ITU

The following was adapted from Malcolm Johnson’s remarks at the fourth Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Smart Sustainable Cities and e-Government in Thanh Hóa City, Vietnam, on July 4, 2018.

Cities across Vietnam are embarking on a digital transformation. Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang have been selected to be part of the proposed ASEAN Smart Cities Network.

As Vice Minister Phan Tam said at the World Telecommunication Development Conference last October, these new smart city initiatives will create new market opportunities for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and new opportunities for international cooperation.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 2.1 billion urban residents, and over two thirds of the population will live in cities by 2050. As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs, ITU is committed to bringing all stakeholders together to address the challenges of this rapid urbanization.

We are working to develop the tremendous potential of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G have to build smarter, more sustainable cities.

‘The creation of smart cities requires a trusted infrastructure capable of supporting an enormous volume of ICT-based applications and services.’ Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, ITU

The Department of Communications and the Arts of the Australian government and the World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization (WeGO) are partnering with ITU to explore how these emerging technologies can support the transition to smart sustainable cities here in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is early days, but we are already seeing progress. For example, in Vietnam, real-time data is collected to provide city bus passengers with information about routes and arrival times, and it is used to monitor water quality and service levels for residential and industrial users. These are two examples out of hundreds all across this country and the rest of the world.

What all these examples have in common is that they rely on technical standards. The creation of smart cities requires a trusted infrastructure capable of supporting an enormous volume of ICT-based applications and services, which in turn require adherence to common international standards to ensure openness and interoperability, reduce costs through economies of scale and avoid getting locked into propriety standards.

ITU has a Study Group developing these international standards to enable the coordinated development of IoT technologies in smart cities, called ITU-T Study Group 20.

Let us remember that the deployment of these technologies is expected to connect an estimated 50 billion devices to the network by year 2020, putting tremendous pressure on the radio spectrum which is managed at the global level by ITU.

smart cities

United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) is an initiative coordinated by ITU and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and supported by 16 other UN bodies to help make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable in accordance with SDG 11.

We have developed a set of Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities. They provide cities with the tool to assess the contributions of ICTs to smart urban development. Over 50 cities have already successfully implemented these indicators, from Dubai to Singapore.

ITU is currently partnering with Smart Dubai to develop a Global Smart Sustainable Cities Index, which will show cities around the world their progress in reaching different SDGs based on the data collected from our KPIs. This represents an important step in making better policies and building smarter and more sustainable cities, not just in words but in deeds.

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

How ITU supports Smart Cities in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond

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