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12 JUL 2018

The Role of Information and Communication Technologies for Smart and Sustainable Cities Highlighted at the HLPF

UNESCO - 11/07/2018 - [gif]

Assunto: Pesquisas e Indicadores TIC

Today, over 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas and by 2030 two thirds will be urbanites. To discuss what role the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could play in solving some of the greatest challenges introduced by the rapid urbanization, UNESCO partnered with the Brazilian Network Information Center (, Regional Centre of Studies for the Development of the Information Society ( and SDG Academy to organize a side-event at the High-Level Political Forum on its opening day – 9 July 2018 at the permanent mission of Argentina.

The moderator, UNESCO’s Guilherme Canela Godoi underlined the need to support policy stakeholders in their quest to leverage technological opportunities to implement policies and make cities smarter. Dr. Chaesub Lee from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) explored the constituents of “smart”. Whilst for him, it is the people, history, culture, geography and economy that make each city unique, and hence, impossible to define one smart city solution to all, there are still universal technical elements constituting smartness. These are, essentially, collaborative knowledge, compatibility, integrity, interoperability, and interconnectivity.

Dr Eugenie Birch, a Co-Chair of the Sustainable Cities Thematic Network (SDSN), continued the discussion and shared a key learning from their interventions: “To talk to real people about SDG’s there has to be an alignment of UN language” – the language commonly used on SDG’s does not always resonate with the urban leaders. To support the integration of SDGs in the cities’ ongoing activities and policies, SDSN has developed three handbooks. Mr. Claudio Acioly of the UN Habitat also noted that far too often, we take it for granted that people understand SDG’s and the change in their lives when they are realized. To incentivize citizens, they need to be engaged in the dialogue on development opportunities.

Building on this, Mr. Warren Feek from the Communication Initiative Network described dialogue and debate as the key drivers for change: ICT’s have a tremendous role as enablers of discussions for public interest media. ICT’s also support data collection and analysis providing evidence for policy formation, but also for identifying the issues. Dr. Alexandre Barbosa ( underlined the need to use data better to identify the gaps hindering the citizen participation in providing feedback, formulating responses and participating in the management of the challenges local governments are faced with. Technologies can be powerful in bridging the inequalities and inclusion gaps in the cities as well as in identifying them.

A large number of representatives from Governments, international and civil society organizations, the UN and academia attended the event and contributed to a lively discussion on the implementation of SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and its connections with ICTs and access to information. Mr. Canela concluded by noting ICT’s are still no silver bullet to urban challenges. Renewed commitment is required to build the cities’ and citizens capacities to be part of the solution. Contributing to this goal, UNESCO with partners is working on a Massive Online Open Course on “ICT and the SDGs” to be announced soon. Finally, issues linked to emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence and their implications for transparency, accountability, privacy, and inclusion need to be addressed.