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Press Release

ITU and UN-Habitat partner to accelerate digital transformation of cities and communities

New collaboration agreement aims to achieve sustainable and people-centred urban development

Geneva/Nairobi, 10 December 2020
Cities are home to 3.5 billion people, half of humanity, and this figure is projected to rise to 5 billion by 2030. Government, industry, academia and civil society are working together to accelerate the digital transformation of cities and communities to meet today’s challenges and challenges to come.

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) highlights their mutual commitment to collaborate in support of the innovation required to achieve the New Urban Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development.
The MoU supports the collaboration of ITU and UN-Habitat to advance human rights, promote social inclusion and achieve sustainable urban development. It supports the organizations in encouraging responsible investment and financing for smart city projects as well as inclusive dialogue around the support offered by digital technologies and related standards and guidelines.
The leadership of ITU and UN-Habitat welcomed the new MoU at a Virtual Forum on the Digital Transformation of Cities and Communities, co-organized by ITU and UN-Habitat on 7 December 2020.
From climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic, ICTs offer new solutions to the challenges facing cities and communities across the world,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “With this new collaboration agreement, ITU and UN-Habitat are committed to reducing spatial inequality and poverty in communities ─ as well as strengthening climate action in urban environments ─ to promote social inclusion and achieve sustainable urban development.”
UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif observed that: “Digital technologies and data offer new ways for urban managers to make informed decisions and strategic choices. We need to build digital capacity and digital public infrastructure to ensure that the benefits of the digital revolution leave no one behind. By bringing together UN-Habitat and ITU, we have the potential to build the real people-centred smart cities of the future.”
The MoU is a new step in the collaboration of ITU and UN-Habitat, building on initiatives such as United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC), an initiative supported by 17 United Nations partners with the aim of achieving SDG11: ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.
This shared experience is now supporting a UN system-wide effort led by UN-Habitat to develop an Urban Monitoring Framework to strengthen the links between the national and local monitoring and reporting processes supporting sustainable urban development.
The effort benefits from cities’ experience with U4SSC Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities based on ITU standards, indicators that have been adopted by more than 100 cities to evaluate their progress towards smart city objectives and the SDGs.
Standards for smart cities
The world’s three leading standards bodies ITU, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have established a Joint Task Force to coordinate international standardization for smart cities. The Joint Task Force will engage all stakeholders to ensure that standards bodies capitalize on synergies to develop comprehensive standardization solutions for smart cities.
ITU standardization work for ‘Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities’ is led by ITU-T Study Group 20. The standards developed by the group provide technical foundations for smart city innovation, helping cities to innovate efficiently and at scale. An important aspect of this work is the development of standards supporting sustainable urban development.​


About the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago in 1865, ITU is the intergovernmental body responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. From broadband networks to cutting-edge wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, oceanographic and satellite-based earth monitoring as well as converging fixed-mobile phone, Internet and broadcasting technologies, ITU is committed to connecting the world. For more information, visit

​About the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

UN-Habitat works in over 90 countries supporting people in cities and human settlements for a better urban future. Working with governments and local partners, its high impact projects combine world-class expertise and local knowledge to deliver timely and targeted solutions. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on cities, SDG 11, to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. For more information go to ​