< back

Invited Session 3

Thursday, 24 September 2020 | 12:00 - 14:00 |


Connecting smart cities and community governance to the Sustainable Development Goals

We face today an unprecedented societal, environmental and economic global challenge. Cities are the main "battleground" for fighting against climate change, increasing consumption, the depletion of natural resources, increasing energy demands, and rising greenhouse emissions. At the same time, cities receive most of the population, create most of the revenues and are the place where most activities are concentrated. Changes and reforms should start in cities, by leveraging ICTs such as Internet of Things (IoT), digital platforms, wireless sensor networks, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and more.

Smart sustainable cities and settlements aim to provide innovative solutions to cities and settlements by using a wide variety of ICTs and other means to improve quality of life and address the growing environmental and socio-economic pressures exerted by rural-urban migration. Many cities are working to become smart and sustainable cities by consuming less energy, generating less waste, reducing traffic congestion and optimising public transportation. It is clear that smart sustainable city development holds great potential in accelerating the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Despite the efforts realised at different levels - international organisations are developing standards, diffusing best practices and generating key consensus while governments and local authorities are developing strategies and deploying initiatives to build better cities - there are still important challenges that need to be overcome before the vision of smart sustainable cities is fully optimising. These include increasing energy consumption, deepening social and economic inequality, unsustainable consumption/production patterns, traffic congestion, increasing urban poverty, climate risks, air pollution, loss of biodiversity and more. We are at a point when we are called to collaborate and cooperate to face these challenges.


The objectives of this session are to discuss how better to connect smart cities to the sustainable development goals to address the concerns presented and how the technologies leveraged in smart city initiatives can be oriented toward generating sustainable public value. These questions are directly related to the governance of cities and communities, the role of the technology in this governance, and how the intelligence of smart cities could be turned towards sustainable development. Besides, there may be risks associated with smart technologies, for example, tensions between smart technologies and human rights, that need to be navigated.

More specifically, the following questions will be used for the discussion on connecting smart city initiatives to the SDGs and creating sustainable public value:

  • Where are smart city initiatives already contributing towards the SDGs?
  • What are the points of tension (e.g. risks) between smart technologies and the SDGs?
  • How can city governance contribute to ensuring that "smart" supports "sustainable"?


The session will be based on thematic debate involving representatives from the public sector and the broader ecosystem (e.g. private sector and academia) as well as experts from international organisations (e.g. UN agencies), together with attendees at the session. It will start with a brief introduction by the facilitator, and then short presentations on the main themes by the panellists (5-7 minutes each). This will be followed by a facilitated discussion on the themes for one hour. The audience will be invited to ask questions during the discussion of the themes.

  • 10 minutes: welcome and outline of the topic, facilitator introduces the participants.
  • 30 minutes: each participant is invited to make one or two points about each of the themes.
  • 15 minutes: discussion of theme 1 (including audience questions).
  • 15 minutes: discussion of theme 2 (including audience questions).
  • 15 minutes: discussion of theme 3 (including audience questions).
  • 5 minutes: wrap-up.


Judy Backhouse
United Nations University (UNU-EGOV)
Leonidas Anthopoulos
University of Thessaly
Tauni Lanier
World Wide Generation


Invited Session Organiser
United for Smart Sustainable Cities
Invited Session Organiser
International Telecommunication Union
Invited Session Organiser
Conference Coordinator
United Nations University (UNU-EGOV)