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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Eighth Symposium on ICTs, the environment and climate change

Torino, Italy, 6 May 2013

Opening Address

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

​Buon giorno e benvenuti to this eighth Symposium on ICTs, the environment and climate change.

I would like to thank our partner in organizing this event, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, our hosts Telecom Italia for offering us these excellent facilities in the beautiful and historic city of Torino, and Huawei our sponsor for its generous support.

The theme of this symposium is: Smart Sustainable Cities. Today, it is estimated that 65% of the world’s population lives in cities, with 1.3 million people moving into cities every week. In 1975 there were just three so called megacities with population over 10 million: New York; Tokyo; and Mexico City. Today there are 21, and by 2050 it is predicted that more than 6 billion people will live in urban areas.

With the consequent increased demand on resources, smart sustainable measures will be essential to ensure their efficient management, and ICTs are therefore clearly key to achieving this.

ICTs have the unique capability of being able to capture the ever-increasing amounts of information generated in the world around us – whether it is sensors that monitor traffic on the roads, or the passage of water through pipes.

As we learned at the recent ITU workshop on Smart Water management in Luxor, the integration of ICTs in water management increases efficiency and reliability in water supply, and reduce consumption.

Intelligent transport systems (ITS) can significantly reduce pollutants and improve the flow of traffic.

Open data can enable citizens to take charge of their own environments, for example by enabling better management of their own energy consumption, or by providing information on air quality – crucial for those with respiratory problems. Cloud computing can power many of these applications much more efficiently, and smart grid can provide better management of electricity distribution and use.

Broadband can create a level playing field of opportunities for the urban under-privileged, and brings to the home e-health, e-learning, e-government and teleworking, reducing the need for travel.

Interoperability will be essential for all these services to work efficiently, and this can only be achieved through international standards.

ITU Study Groups assemble thousands of experts from around the world to produce international standards, which we call Recommendations, and which enable many of these applications.

Producing international, interoperable, non-discriminatory standards is one of the main missions of ITU.

In particular ITU-T Study Group 5 leads on our work on Environment and Climate Change, and I am very pleased that the Chairman, Ahmed Zeddam, is here with us, and has agreed to chair this symposium.

SG5 has developed several standards in the area of environment and climate change, including a set of standardized methodologies to assess the environmental impact of ICT, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from the ICT sector, as well as the reduction of total greenhouse gas emissions possible through the application of ICTs in other sectors – a contribution several times its own footprint.

The study group is now working on the development of a specific methodology to assess the environmental impact of ICT in cities.

Two weeks ago ITU held its annual academic conference, called Kaleidoscope, in Kyoto which reminded me of the first of these Symposia held there in April 2008. At that time we were repeated being asked: what has ITU got to do with climate change? That event really kick-off all this activity in ITU, and I am pleased to say we no longer are being asked that question! Even the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences now acknowledge the significant role that ICTs can play both in mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Smart Cities are no longer a dream. At the end of last year ITU held two world conferences in the UAE where a smart city called Masdar has been created from a green-field site.

ITU’s latest Technology Watch report tracks a great success story in a far more established city. It covers Seoul’s emergence as a “smart city” applying ICTs as basic infrastructure to improve service delivery, peoples happiness, and economic and environmental sustainability. Our Technology Reports are available for downloading from the ITU website, as are our standards, free of charge.

The report will be considered by the new Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities which Study Group 5 established at its last meeting in February and will meet for the first time here on Wednesday. As with all our Focus Groups, it is open to all interested parties, national regulators, city administrators, mayors, standards bodies, equipment manufacturers, network operators, service providers, civil society and other stakeholders, whether they are members of ITU or not, so I invite you all to participate.

Societal changes and mounting pressure on resources will require cities to be increasingly sustainable. It is only through the application of ICTs that the first steps towards creating truly smart, sustainable cities can be achieved.

I am very pleased to see we have so many leading experts in the field as speakers and moderators, I would like to thank you all for your time and effort.

As with all our events, we will wish to end this symposium tomorrow with some recommended actions to take forward our activities in ITU. I am confident that the discussions that will take place over the next two days will identify some of the main steps to be taken to help cities reduce their GHG emissions and energy consumption, and will provide a very useful input to the Focus Group meeting on Wednesday.

Finally, let me thank Flavio Cucchietti, Vice Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 5, who has put so much effort into preparing for the series of events here this week, which will end with a workshop on Thursday on another important area of ITU work: human exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Thank you all for your participation and I wish you all a very productive and enjoyable symposium.

Grazie mille