Hyderabad, a leading byte-basket,can do a lot to tackle its current troubles in pollution and transport and look smart. Here is how.
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. But many countries are finding Information and communication technology (ICT) a useful tool in helping cities improve their safety, cleanliness, and sustainability.
Diana Lind, contributing author to the State of the World 2012 report, takes snapshot of various cities that have successfully used ICT. Indian cities, especially Bangalore and Hyderabad, have the scope of harnessing this technology to mitigate its sufferings.
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.
Cities must customize ICT
“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.” Each city must customise the ICT to suit its needs.
State of the World highlights three ways that communities can effectively use ICT to promote sustainability:
Open access to data. Improving data access is critical to creating sustainable cities. By sharing information, it is possible to make connections among seemingly disparate variables. The Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University in New York used data to establish the connection between crime and poor housing, education, and health care. By analysing data from the criminal justice system, researchers found that a disproportionate number of felons were from specific neighborhoods in large US cities. Similar research may help officials target policies around education and poverty reduction in these areas, which could help in preventing crime.
Community mapping. Mapping all neighbourhoods and regions of a city is vital to ensuring effective and sustainable urban planning. Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is home to approximately 1 million people. Yet Kibera has been excluded from city maps, discounting its thousands of residents. Recently, an independent team of researchers partnered with Kibera youth to create an interactive map of the slums. In 2009, the team succeeded in placing
Kibera on official Nairobi maps, which resulted in a new project, Voice of Kibera, which helps citizens report the location of robberies or fires, and hold discussions by text message.
Community watch. ICTs can enhance community involvement and help authorities respond to local concerns. The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a grassroots-mapping community based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses low-tech materials, including helium balloons and digital cameras, to take aerial photos of areas that may endanger public health or be of environmental concern. These tools helped identify contaminated areas in the Gulf of Mexico after a major oil spill and an illegal dumping site in Brooklyn, New York.
Using ICT helps cities achieve sustainability efficiently while connecting with local communities, to ensure that diverse perspectives are included in the city’s plans.
Experts point out that Hyderabad could come up with a major initiative in the field of civic issues. A government-ICT coordination could do wonders, they say.
10 smart cities that make max use of ICT
4. New York
10. Hong Kong
Source: Ranking by Boyd Cohen, climate strategist
Smart cities are those that use ICT to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint — all supporting innovation and the low-carbon economy.
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.