Smart Cities for a Green and Resilient Urban Development
On October 13th 2022, the International Smart Cities Network (ISCN) organised the high-level Online Symposium “Smart Cities for a Green and Resilient Urban Development”. The symposium was hosted by the Division “Smart Cities” of the German Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB) in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India.
State-of-the-art smart city approaches, from the use of digital twins to frameworks for securing and monitoring well-being, were presented and discussed in three high-level and thematically linked panel sessions. By providing the opportunity to present different national policy frameworks and data strategies as well as multiple use cases, the symposium connected practical and theoretical aspects of smart city planning and simultaneously showing the wide range of measures being taken.
In their opening remarks Dr. Rolf Bösinger, State secretary of the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB) of Germany and Kunal Kumar, Smart City Mission Director and Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in India both emphasized the role of digital solutions and smart city measures to make cities more resilient. While Dr Bösinger highlighted the value and potential of data, similar to that of natural resources, Mr Kumal pointed out the crucial role of the ISCN in facilitating much needed international exchange.
National Approaches for Urban Data
The first panel focused on national approaches to urban data – bringing together speakers from Germany, India, and Brazil to showcase their national strategies and explain how their respective national governments support local public administration in urban data management. Participants explained the role national governments play in facilitating smart city processes by establishing frameworks, overarching strategies, and providing funding for innovative solutions to make cities smarter, greener, and more resilient. All speakers pointed out the importance of high-quality data as a foundation to address climate change and reach national net zero goals. By giving insights into different use cases from early warning systems for flooding to citizen apps incentivizing climate-friendly behavior, they showed the broad range of local solutions derived from these frameworks and strategies, highlighting the importance of national strategies combined with specific local measures.
Approaches from Germany and India
Digital Twins and AI: The digital basis for sustainable smart cities?
Digital Twins – in combination with AI – offer the opportunity to visualize and analyze complex data in geographical context and, hence, providing insights for better urban planning. This session highlighted how these tools are used in different ways in a range of contexts and regions, depending on the challenges, needs and goals of a particular city: whether to visualise social and economic stratification to develop policies to reduce social and economic inequalities, to manage decentralised energy neighbourhoods, or to simulate the consequences of different decisions in traffic management or urban planning. Participants not only explained how the use of these tools helps to achieve Net Zero goals and make cities more resilient, but also pointed out the importance of public accountability and transparent processes when using AI-based tools.
Examples from the ISCN and beyond
Replication for Success
How can promises of quick and efficient scaling and replication be kept? With representatives of the European Union and the Japanese Smart City Institute the third panel focused on the role of co-creation and international cross-city collaboration to reach local climate goals. Both speakers highlighted the role of overarching frameworks, political support, and pioneer cities as a starting point for further developments. In the context of the EU, the “Climate-Neutral & Smart Cities Mission” with its goal to make 100 European cities climate neutral by 2030 is a central measure in which digitalization is understood as a horizontal enabler of measures combating climate change. In Japan a human-centered approach to smart and resilient cities is being taken, with 27 pioneer cities implementing digital technologies to achieve higher quality of life in cities, measured by “Well-Being” indicators. When elaborating on their respective projects both speakers pointed out the importance of digital components to face societal and environmental challenges as well as the support provided by peer learning through national and international exchange.
Martha Gutierrez, Director of Division Global Policy, Governance and Cities at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), gave the closing remarks. She summarised the most important findings and formulated the following key take-aways:
Today’s challenges require responses combining digital solutions and measures to combat climate change and inequality.
This means mobilizing citizens and administrators to co-create a process oriented towards the common good.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal standardized solutions that can be adapted by cities on a large-scale need to be developed.
Local action and cooperation between cities, also to optimize budgets, is crucial.