The Challenge – Localising UN SDGs for Inclusive Smart Cities

When world leaders gathered at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 to launch the UN SDGs, there were concerns that the 17 goals were too ambitious, too general, not focused, and unrealistic. After all, the SDGs expanded on the 8 Millennial Development Goals (adopted in 2000), and recurring goals like poverty, hunger, universal education, gender equality, and environment sustainability remained.

There are valid reasons to be skeptical. Take poverty as an example. According to World Bank statistics, in 2015, 736 million people lived on less than USD1.90 a day, down from 1.85 billion in 1990. While that was a great achievement, the progress made had been somewhat uneven.

East Asia and Pacific (with 47 million extreme poor) and Europe and Central Asia (seven million) have reduced extreme poverty to below three per cent, projecting to achieve the 2030 target. Alarmingly, for Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of poor actually increased, to 413 million in 2015.

In India, around 170 million people lived in poverty in 2015, at 12.4% of the population, a reduction from 29.8% in 2009. According to World Bank, more than 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty as China’s poverty rate fell dramatically from 88% in 1981 to 6.5% in 2012. It was further projected to fall to about 2% in 2018 with hopes of totally eradicating poverty by 2020. In ASEAN, the percentage of population in extreme poverty fell from 47% in 1990 to 14% in 2015.  

Based on these statistics and current state, the uneven progress would mean that trying to achieve the UN SDGs globally by 2030 would be a tremendous challenge. We would like to offer two approaches to address this challenge – by localising the UN SDGs and developing Inclusive Smart Cities. 

1) The Experiences by Cauayan City (Isabela, Philippines)

We believe that city leaders around the world should embrace the UN SDGs as an integral part of their strategy for sustainable development. To do so, the UN SDGs must be localised and mapped to existing development projects, and monitored to achieve specific goals. 

See the diagram above where every project in Cauayan City would be mapped to at least one SDG. The Mayor hopes to achieve SDG#11 – “Sustainable Cities and Communities” in the Philippines by demonstrating that if a small city like Cauayan City can do that, other cities should be able to do likewise.

The participation of Cauayan City in the “Digital Twinned Smart Cities” Initiative by Smart Cities Network is to achieve SDG#17 – Partnerships for the Goals, by collaborating with others and learning from the network. 

2) The Need for More Inclusive Smart Cities

Countries and cities around the world have embarked on projects to make their countries and cities “Smart” or “Smarter”. It is now a trillion dollar market, offering solution and service providers tremendous business opportunities which could be turned into opportunities to help achieve the UN SDGs. Below would be the pre-requisites:

a)  An Integrated Smart City and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Business Model – In August 2014, the Indian government passed a legislation that requires large companies (with average net profit of at least 50 million rupees over a period of 3 years) to spend at least two per cent of their profits every year on CSR.

With the country embarking on Smart Cities in virtually every state in India, companies should work with the state government to integrate smart cities development with CSR projects. Such a business model would be a win-win partnership between the public and private sectors which should be replicated globally.        

b)  Identify “Bankable Projects for Smart Cities” – the World Bank and other regional Financial Institutions had spent trillions to assist developing countries achieve their SDGs. It is perhaps time to invest in projects that would attract the private sector to propose projects which are bankable in the development of smart cities. Projects like Smart Street Lighting (with integrated video cameras and sensors) with guaranteed 40% energy savings would help lay the smart infrastructure for cities with cost savings. 

3) How to start localising the SDGs?

c) The first step to embark on localising the SDGs would be a difficult one. Below is the advice from the Mayor of Cauayan City from the Philippines, Bernard Faustino Madrid Dy:

“There are a lot of programs that are being implemented by the National Government but they would not being connected to the SDGs. So Local Government Units (LGUs) like Cauayan City should showcase how these projects are related to the SDGs. Another important factor is to inform the academic institutions and students on SDGs. We have also engaged partner agencies to relate their programs to the SDGs.”

d) Cauayan City is a member city of the Digitally Twinned Smart Cities initiative. Partner cities would have the opportunity to learn from their city officials. If other cities are interested to know more, please register for ConnecTechAsia2019 and attend our Smart Cities Project Activation Workshop on 19 June 2019 at the Smart Cities Arena.  

Mayor Bernard Faustino Madrid Dy was awarded for two consecutive years as the Most Outstanding Mayor in the Philippines, largely for his work in making Cauayan City as the first Smarter City in the country. He has signed an MOU with Kok-Chin and other ecosystem partners for Smarter and Sustainable Cities in January 2019, with Cauayan City as an innovation hub and model for the development of Smarter Cities.  Cauayan City is also the first city from the Philippines involved in the Digitally Twinned Smart Cities Initiative, a pioneering concept to develop smart cities globally.

Kok-Chin will be moderating the Future Cities Panel – Building the Foundations of Smart Cities and Beyond, on Day 1 of ConnecTechAsia Summit, 18 June 2019. In this session, leaders and subject experts will discuss pertinent challenges facing the amalgamation of smart cities, as well as infrastructure and regulatory issues in driving digitalisation, citizen inclusiveness and sustainability of future cities. Register here to attend!

Additionally, Smart Cities Network will host a half-day workshop at ConnecTechAsia on Day 2, 19 June 2019, at the Smart Cities Arena. Representatives of Smart Cities in ASEAN (including the Philippines) will be invited to share on potential projects with interested business investors and partners. More details to follow soon.

ConnecTechAsia is organised by UBM.

SOURCE UBM Singapore