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. Data collected from multiple data sources, like sensor data 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 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, or inland floods. We will see more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms as well as periods of more extreme heat or 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 manifold missions. C40 is committed to tackling climate change and drive urban action towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing climate risks. At the same time, the health, well-being, and economic opportunities of urban citizens are to be increased.

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 (SDGs) wisely focus on cities in three critical areas: First, ensuring the marginalized are included and protected – from others as well as from natural disasters. Second, ensuring people have equal access to basic infrastructure and services, including water, sanitation, utilities, and transportation. 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 equally foster innovation and collaboration. It can 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 are even overtaking nations on SDG progress.

SAP is doing its part

We are committed to enabling sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and livable cities through technology. The new software SAP S4/HANA and SAP Cloud Platform helped Buenos Aires Province to systemize its processes and give employees better visibility into the progress of public works projects. The administration uses the software to run more than 3,000 projects across hydraulics, sanitation, architecture, housing, energy, agriculture, and other areas – all of which are essential to citizens’ daily lives.

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

Novo Mesto is a small Slovenian city located on a scenic bend of the River Krka. Settled in prehistoric times, the city has always been smart about the way it manages its resources. The idea of keeping the air, water, and soil clean for future generations is deeply ingrained in the collective mindset. But like many other cities in Europe, Novo Mesto has been struggling with air pollution for the past decade. After conducting research, the city turned to SAP and Telekom Slovenia. Sensors were installed all over the city to gather data – not only on air pollution but on many other important environmental metrics, including water usage and light pollution. With the help of data, Novo Mesto could take action to make the city cleaner and more sustainable.

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 uses the SAP HANA Cloud Platform and consists of a device connected to the cyclist’s smartphone This device continuously matches the GPS location with a central database containing the data of where bike accidents happen.

More opportunities lie ahead to build intelligent sustainable cities and inclusive communities. Whether they involve enabling stronger engagement with the citizens, building trust and better experience like the cities of Orlando and Christchurch, or more intelligent mobility in cities such as Novo Mesto, London, Beverly Hills, or Hong Kong. In the near future, blockchain could help cities to cope much better with natural weather disasters. 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.

Next:

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production