Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Today, 10% of the world’s population dwells in just 100 cities, and by the end of the 21st century, those cities will hold close to 20% of the world’s population. Technology can play a critical role in helping these hubs of innovation drive sustainability, resiliency, and inclusion. Sensor data collected from city infrastructures can not only help ensure the proper functioning of basic services but also help save people from natural disasters and other emergencies.

Data Matters in Urban Matters

Shunting more than 51 inches of rain in just a few days represents a huge challenge for any big city. In Houston, Hurricane Harvey caused more than 60 deaths. At first, the priority was to help the survivors to move back to their damaged houses. To prevent even worse catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or Hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018, Houston must now think about retrofitting its water facilities for even bigger floods and invest in green areas that can draw away the water. Miami, for example, is investing US$400 million in its flood protection program, installing sea pumps and walls. Less prosperous communities cannot afford those investments.

UN‐Habitat warns that the effects of urbanization and climate change are converging in dangerous ways. While the world’s cities occupy just 3% of the Earth’s land, they account for 60% to 80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. At the same time, cities and towns are heavily vulnerable to climate change. Hundreds of millions of people in urban areas across the world will be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more-extreme heat and cold.

Resilience for cities is therefore a key focus area for UN‐Habitat. The organization recognizes the role that data and technology can play in building resilience by explicitly adding data management and early warning systems as two of its “ten essentials” for building city resilience. Similarly, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group emphasizes the role of data in fulfilling its mission to tackle climate change and drive urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, well-being, and economic opportunities of urban citizens.

Our urban future

Cities are critical ecosystems across the globe. More than 50% of the world’s population dwells in cities, with 10% living in just 100 cities. The 20 largest cities have a population larger than the entire United States. Tokyo, the largest city on earth, has over 36 million residents, making it larger than Canada’s population though using less than 0.1% of Canada’s land area.

In many ways cities are small – and in some cases not so small – microcosms of the issues we face on a global level. The architects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) wisely focus on cities in three critical areas: first, ensuring the marginalized are included and protected – from others and natural disasters; second, ensuring people have equal access to basic infrastructure and services, including water, sanitation, utilities, and transportation; and third, overcoming the negative environmental aspects of modern cities, such as waste and air pollution.

The compactness of cities is why they play a critical role in a sustainable future. Dense urban living can foster innovation and collaboration, supply and strengthen education, make life’s basic necessities more accessible, and drive economic growth. As an added bonus, cities reduce resource consumption and ensure critical, fertile land for agriculture and healthy biomes. And indeed, major cities across the globe are taking action and even overtaking nations on SDG progress.

SAP is doing its part

We are committed to enabling sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and livable cities through technology. Data collected from sensors embedded into city infrastructure, such as the sewer systems in Buenos Aires, helps ensure basic services are working but can also help save people from natural disasters and other emergencies.

With the help of SAP, the City of Heidelberg implemented smart waste management using IoT sensors and analytics to optimize waste collection. This is helping Heidelberg get one step closer to becoming a smart city with a sustainable future.

Keeping residents on the move is also the aim of STIB-MIVB, which runs all public transport networks throughout Brussels, including 4 metro train lines, 17 tram lines, and 50 bus lines. STIB-MIVB uses business intelligence solutions from SAP to identify any network performance issues and improve efficiency in areas such as optimizing routing, minimizing vehicle downtime, and providing a rapid response to changing traffic conditions. It does all this while helping ensure full transparency and accountability to the public.

The crowdsourced initiative SAP One Billion Lives seeks to unlock innovation and talent by using SAP technology for social good, aiming to address gaps in education, health, and disaster management. The close collaboration with the seismometer manufacturer Hakusan Corporation, as one example, focuses on disaster preparedness in Japan. The innovative app “myShindo” transforms smartphones into seismometers and analyzes the potential impact on the stability of buildings in the event of an earthquake.

Cycling in the Dutch city of Denbosch is becoming safer thanks to SafeToBike, a device geared to children that warns them when they are cycling through areas of high-traffic risk. The purpose is to increase their alertness and vigilance. The SafeToBike solution (which uses the SAP HANA Cloud Platform) consists of a device connected to the cyclist’s smartphone (iOS and Android), which continuously matches the GPS location with a central database containing the data of where bike accidents happen.

More opportunities lie ahead – whether they involve enabling stronger engagement and inclusion of citizens or more intelligent mobility in cities such as London, Beverly Hills, Christchurch, or Hong Kong. In the near future, blockchain could help cities to cope much better with natural weather disasters, as the “pooling and sharing” scenario shows. Often the problem lies not so much in the lack of resources available to help, but in the logistics to direct and deliver that support efficiently to the right places. Blockchain could help establish the trusted, decentralized transparency required across numerous parties.


Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production