Role of Information & Communications Technology
The availability of a citywide broadband infrastructure is the basis for the successful implementation of CUD. Initially, this will support the development of data, voice, video and mobile communication platforms that will be used with local and national policy and other efforts to increase enablement of work anywhere/anytime.
A second area of infrastructure focus will be the creation of an IP-enabled framework for commercial and business real estate and IP-enabled civil infrastructure that connects roads, railways, gas / electricity / water utility networks, and other city assets such as traffic lights, towers, telephone boxes, etc.
Three Effects of ICT-enabled Sustainable Urban Development
Virtually all proposed solutions to energy consumption and climate change-such as Sir Nicholas Stern's "Stern Review: Report on the Economics of Climate Change," as well as the two "Climate Change" reports published by the European Union's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-acknowledge the role ICT plays as a key enabler of environmental effectiveness in large metropolitan areas. But virtually no report or study has addressed exactly how urban ICT and broadband connectivity can help, and what the carbon-reduction impact of innovative urban ICT policy for energy efficiency can be.
Any discussion of sustainable urban development must acknowledge that ICT is part of the problem facing cities today, based on its ever-increasing levels of energy consumption. This downside, however, is more than mitigated by ICT's valuable contributions to energy efficiency, its ability to reduce energy demand in other activities (e.g., using teleworking to reduce trips to the office), and the existence of ICT applications that increase the efficiency of energy used in these activities (e.g., car routing that cuts traffic congestion).
We believe that urban ICT impacts sustainable development of cities in three ways: directly, indirectly, and systemically.
Although these three ICT-enabled effects will have the most significant impact on urban sustainability, they are not yet well understood. Our fundamental belief is that today's flow of people, goods, energy, information, media, and services in cities can be as efficient as the traffic of digital packets on the Internet.
The combination of pervasive broadband infrastructure and an IP-enabled civil and real estate network will promote innovative practices for emissions reduction such as:
- Developing broadband-based urban communication and services infrastructures: using sensors and cameras, along with next-generation infrastructures for energy (for example, to support plug-in vehicles)
- Making use of these infrastructures for congestion charging: linking charges to auto emissions or fuel efficiency (through a simple banding system at annual vehicle tests and equivalents with cross-referencing to vehicle number plate databases used by congestion-charging systems)
- Developing intelligent, IP-based solutions for dynamic traffic management and rerouting for private transport and highly responsive, on-demand public transport practices
- Radical new uses of public sector data: making journey time data and traffic flow information available to enable more creative thinking and action by key players (e.g. major employers and schools) to survey staff and students about shifting their time and usage patterns.
Direct effects are caused by the physical existence of urban ICT infrastructures.
They are resource-intensive in manufacturing and distribution, consuming ever-greater amounts of energy and creating escalating volumes of solid and toxic waste. Mature cities already estimate that the direct ICT contribution to their energy consumption ranges between 5 percent and 15 percent. More energy-efficient ICT solutions and architectures are being rapidly developed at the industry level, where businesses are starting to collaborate on the creation of consortia, such as the Green Grid initiative.
Indirect effects stem from the use of broadband and ICT applications.
They are the essential driver for productivity improvements and innovation (for instance, the virtualization of government and business services), as well as for more efficient management, control, and visualization of urban networks (buildings, energy production and use, mobility, water and sewage, open spaces, public health, and safety). For example, one U.S. study projects that use of broadband could save 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases over 10 years-representing 11 percent of annual oil imports-through transportation substitution and "dematerialization."
Systemic effects link the network impact of ICT to society and urban planning at large.
ICT innovations are catalysts of structural change for personal, work, and community life that will result in the development of more distributed, compact, and mixed-use urban forms. Green real estate development in densely populated locations could have the most significant impact on sustainable urban development, reducing energy consumption from the average suburban U.S. household by 75 percent, according to a paper published by Harvard Business School.
- Access to global networks and ICT resources is a requirement for individual and community success in the "Information Age"-and for driving the kind of continuous innovation that will be essential to competing successfully in the global economy. With proper focus, planning, and policies, cities can be centers of ICT-enabled innovation for sustainable growth.