Why do cities need KPIs?
Cities are the hubs of innovation that drive economic development, however, in the nascent period of a city’s growth, urbanization can have adverse effects on the environment and its citizens.
As we move forth on striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), cities have been encouraged to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address urban challenges and provide a better quality of life to its inhabitants.
Consequently, the Smart Sustainable Cities (SSC) paradigm has gained momentum. Using ICTs offers urban stakeholders: (i) the benefit of efficiency in urban operations and services, (ii) means to improve quality of life (QoL) and (iii) the cultivation of environmental sustainability.
At this stage, it is important to be able to measure the performance of various smart sustainable city ventures. One such approach for measurement is provided by key performance indicators (KPIs) that facilitate the monitoring of the progress achieved in smart sustainable city transitions.
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As the establishment of SSC is a long term process and cannot be achieved overnight, it is essential that a set of indicators are defined that would not only allow for comparability but would also promote sustainable development along with each city being able to quantify improvements as time passes.
In this regard, the KPIs for SSC developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) provide a set of credible, relevant, objective and comparable indices to measure the progress achieved in transitioning to a smart city.
ITU and UNECE developed a set of international KPIs for Smart Sustainable Cities (SSC), which are the first of their kind.
These KPIs can be used to assess how successful cities have been in accomplishing their set smart sustainable city goals.
You cannot manage what you cannot measure!
City leaders will benefit from these KPIs in terms of strategic planning and measurement of the city progress towards their individual smart city goals.
The KPIs for SSC aim to assess how the use of ICTs has an impact on the environmental sustainability of cities.
The ITU-UNECE's KPIs allow for turning performance management into performance improvement, by engaging governments, citizens and other stakeholders through multiple channels and empowering them through direct interaction, and demonstrating accountability through performance reporting.
Implementing SSC KPIs also help businesses grow by boosting the performance and consistency of the desired outcomes.
These KPIs also allow for the demonstration of the feasibility of rapidly progressing towards the set energy and climate objectives at the city level, while proving to citizens that their quality of life (QoL) and local economies can be improved by consistently measuring energy efficiency and reduction of carbon emissions using ICTs.
These KPIs will also foster the dissemination of efficient SSC models and strategies by bringing various cities on a level playing field and allowing for the progress towards a low carbon future.
The intention of identifying the KPIs is to establish the criteria to evaluate ICT´s contributions in making cities smarter and more sustainable, and to provide the cities with the means for self-assessments.
It is desirable that cities can quantify their achievement according to their goals. Therefore, by utilizing these indicators, cities as well as their stakeholders can also objectively assess the extent to which they may be perceived as smart sustainable cities.
Surging forward with SSC KPIs
The evaluation of SSC using ITU-UNECE KPIs aims to improve the urban functionalities, improve quality of life, and ensure environmental, economic and social sustainability.
ITU and UNECE believe that SSC projects will thrive based on their ability to identify, define, monitor their actions.
As the goals for moving towards increased smartness and sustainability differ between cities, based on their economic power or/and population growth etc, cities are encouraged to use an internationally standardized KPIs before they embark on their SSC journey.
More recently, several cities across the globe, including Dubai, Singapore, Manizales, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Wuxi, Valencia and Rimini have asked ITU for assistance in guiding them in the SSC process and implementing the SSC KPIs.
Cities are expected to significantly benefit by using these KPIs that take into account the elements of a smart sustainable city that crucially relies on ICT and offer a credible measure of progress on SSC transitions.
Following on from the pilot projects, several cities have commenced their smart sustainable city expeditions and also joined the United for Smart Sustainable (U4SSC) Initiative launched by ITU and UNECE in Rome on 18 May 2016. The U4SSC is supported by 16 United Nations agencies and programmes.
Under the umbrella of the U4SSC, ITU and UNECE have also established an Advisory Board which has been tasked with the responsibility of refining the existing ITU-UNECE KPIs, based on the results of the pilot projects and inputs from experts from partner UN agencies and programmes.