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ICT Useful in Creating Sustainable Cities – Worldwatch Institute
Source: ecoseed.org
Source Date: Friday, September 21, 2012
Focus: Information Access, Citizens’ Service Delivery, E-Customs
Created: Sep 24, 2012

Information and communication technology can be a useful tool in helping cities like congested ones in countries like India and China improve their safety, cleanliness, and sustainability, according to a Worldwatch Institute study.

More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas, with many suffering from inadequate transportation, sub-standard buildings, lack of sanitation and poor public safety.

According to the report, ICT can help not only through sustainable urban initiatives, but by encouraging 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,” the report said. “Commuters can also plan trips on public transportation and be notified of delays or changes in service.”

Michael Renner, Worldwatch senior researcher, says some municipal governments are already finding out the usefulness of ICT in the path towards sustainability. “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,” he said.

Businesses can also contribute to boost sustainability, like how the Dutch city of Rotterdam partnered with conglomerate G.E. to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent, compared with 1990 levels.

“G.E. will use data visualizations, smart meters, and other technologies to optimize energy efficiency and improve water management,” the report said. “The use of these ICT’s 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.”

However, the report says ICT is not the silver bullet solution to greening cities despite how much it can contribute. “To be effective, ICT must be used not only in mapping problems encountered across cities, but also to find sustainable solutions to those problems,” said the report’s contributing author, Diana Lind of nonprofit Next American City.

She highlighted three ways on how ICT can effectively promote sustainability, namely open access to data, community mapping, and community watch.

Better data access can help make connections among seemingly disparate variables. One example is the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University in New York, where data is used to establish the connection between crime and poor housing, education and health care.

“By analyzing data from the criminal justice system, researchers found that a disproportionate number of felons were from specific neighborhoods in large U.S. cities,” Ms. Lind said. “Similar research may help officials target policies around education and poverty reduction in these areas, which could help in preventing crime.”

Mapping, on the other hand, can help ensure effective and sustainable urban planning. In some countries, large slums with a large population are excluded from city maps, discounting the numerous residents there. If these are included in maps, the city would not only become more organized, but can also prevent crime and accidents.

Finally, community watch can be improved with ICT through various efforts like taking aerial photos of areas that may endanger public health or be of environmental concern, or reporting damaged street lights, streets, among others. With these, local governments can respond easier with such issues. – EcoSeed Staff
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