Using Information and Communications Technology Promotes Sustainability in Cities
More than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, and countries such as India and China are in need of hundreds of additional cities to accommodate growing populations. People in many cities suffer from inadequate transportation, sub-standard buildings, lack of sanitation, and poor public safety, highlighting the need for sustainable and livable urban planning. Information and communication technology (ICT) can be a useful tool in helping cities improve their safety, cleanliness, and sustainability, according to Diana Lind, contributing author to Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity.
ICT not only contributes to sustainable urban initiatives, but also encourages more environmentally conscious consumer choices. In Singapore, for example, commuters can use mobile phones to avoid hours in traffic by accessing data mapping tools that display traffic and provide alternate travel routes. Commuters can also plan trips on public transportation and be notified of delays or changes in service.
"As cities try to become more sustainable, some municipal governments are finding out just how useful ICT can be," said Michael Renner, Worldwatch Senior Researcher and State of the World 2012 project co-director. "Cities can be run more intelligently with the help of digital infrastructure, such as motion-sensor street lamps and energy chips in transit passes that allow people to enter a subway or bus with the simple swipe of a card."
In many cases, cities are partnering directly with businesses to boost urban sustainability. The Dutch city of Rotterdam, for example, is working with General Electric (GE) in an effort to reach the city's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent compared with 1990 levels. GE will use data visualizations, smart meters, and other technologies to optimize energy efficiency and improve water management. The use of these ICTs will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Rotterdam, which emits as much carbon dioxide as New York City, while being only a tenth of its size.
"ICT can be an excellent tool, but it is not the silver bullet solution to greening cities," said Lind, Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Next American City, a nonprofit that promotes socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth in cities in the United States. "To be effective, ICT must be used not only in mapping problems encountered across cities, but also to find sustainable solutions to those problems."
Read more at: Worldwatch Institute.
Sustainable city image via Shutterstock.