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Digital Solutions

According to the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GESI) [1], digitalization can improve:

  • Healthcare and wellbeing, by mean of telemedicine (like in Norway), to support the healthcare system via phones, through the real-time air quality monitoring (like in the City of Cork), to warn people when the air quality is not good for sports, etc.
  • Economic development and housing, through the sharing or peer-to-peer accommodation platforms (such as spareroom).
  • Engagement and community for creating connections of stakeholders, start-ups and citizens through platforms: citizen participation platforms (like OpenStad), city dashboards (like in London), open data platforms (like in Tampere).
  • Improve the management and operation of mobility, through smart traffic signals (like in Catalonia) or mobility platforms (like in Stuttgart region).
  • Efficiency and use of resources such as water (e.g. leakage detection), waste (e.g. optimization of waste collection routes (like in Barcelona), and energy (e.g. smart buildings, smart street lighting, like in Hamburg).

Digital technologies can have a significant impact on many aspects of the move to Net Zero. In fact, as stated in ‘Digital Europe - How to spend it: a digital investment plan for Europe report’, digital technologies have the potential to reduce by 20% the global CO2 emissions by 2030 [2].

The main reason for this is because of the vast amounts of data that is being generated, much of which can be captured in near real-time, which allows much greater insight of the impact of human activity and of the most effective ways of reducing its negative impact of the environment. A widely quoted statistic is that 90% of world’s data has been produced over the last few years. The challenge is that only 10% of the data that is being generated is being analysed (in the IEA report on Digitalisation and Energy [3]).

According to the latest report of CINEA (Digitalization in Urban Energy systems [4]), the main challenges are: data challenges, insufficient coordination and integration, lack of capacity, limited access to finance, and digitalisation risks. Digital tools have been used in past EU projects at different levels (smart buildings, urban data platforms, etc.) but the full potential of those tools is yet to be realised, although they can be potentially disrupting with great potential for energy efficiency and resource efficiency. What can be done at the city level in the short term is the following:

  • Strengthen support from public authorities for data collection, access, and sharing. At the same time ensure transparency to citizens about the values from sharing data (like in Vienna).
  • Follow the local digitalisation needs (see the focus on local EU strategies).
  • Strengthen coordination: by helping develop communities of practice, central units for local support, for engagement of stakeholders (like in London).
  • Increase investment in capacity building, to empower digitalisation capacity across city departments and across stakeholders (like in Scotland).
  • Enable participation of public/private sectors and citizens in those interventions with clear financial benefits.
  • Enhance the awareness among citizens of possible financing/ subsidy mechanisms.

The digital solutions cover a wide variety of topics, since they are meant to focus on exploring opportunities to develop and improve digital connectivity and digital tools, such as artificial intelligence, IoT, BIM, Digital Twin, predictive modelling, etc., in order to establish cross-cutting enablers for other areas. Digital solutions can provide a basis for progress in urban processes and facilitate decision-making by cities with citizens to drive action.


ANALYTICS MODELLING SOLUTIONS

Analytic modelling solutions can effectively support city planning and policy-making, by means of solutions such as predictive modelling, a crucial element for both real-time management and long-term planning in urban areas (like in Tallinn); digital twin for individual buildings and wider at city level: local digital twin (as being used in Helsinki); scenario-based analysis, which can cover multiple domains (see for instance on climate action); Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications (see, for instance); GHG monitoring from space (taking advantage of satellite-based Earth observations), see this World Bank publication; or application of BIM (Building Information Modelling), which combines data and 3D geometry modelling, or CIM (Civil Information Modelling), for a broader perspective (see this video).


URBAN DIGITAL PLATFORMS

Digital Platforms at the city level are another essential tool to support city planning and policy-making. The solutions described in this field are meant to support cities’ views and provide relevant information city open data platforms (such as the one in Vienna) on City Platform Architecture (see the reference architecture description of the Espresso project), CO2 Emission Trading Platforms (such as Carbon TradeXchange or, the one developed in CIX Project), City Dashboards (like in Valencia), Predictive Maintenance supporting tools (like in Leeds), Advanced Renovation Support (as part of the BEYOND project in Helsinki), or Data and Solution Catalogues (e.g. in Glasgow), as a local data space to share and make useful data.


OTHER DIGITAL SOLUTIONS: Digital infrastructure, disaster and resilience management, e-government

Edge computing is a type of cloud computing that takes place near to the objects of interest (unlike normal cloud computing, where the processing and storage happen in a remote site). It is specifically relevant where cloud computing meets the IoT (Internet of Things), and can have several applications for a city, such as environmental monitoring.

Vulnerability and risk information systems can be also very helpful for a city disaster and resilience management (see the World Bank document), as well as satellite and geospatial data, which works with satellite images and geolocated data and can offer to city planners and governments to take informed decision by quantitative analysis and even predictions based on these technologies.

Citizen participation platforms are also essential in the communication and involving, collaboration, and empowering of citizens. They allow citizens to take an active part in city governmental decisions. Local governments are then able to tap into the ingenuity of their residents, gaining valuable ideas. This two-way feedback makes cities more democratic and dynamic. Residents can also play an active role in verifying and contributing to data, London provides a good example.


DIGITAL PUBLIC GOODS

To establish those cross-cutting enablers in a digital way for other areas, other transversal solutions are needed as well in cities, such as data strategy (like in Helsinki), measurement and monitoring services (for instance using the LORDI framework), public Code Management (like Dutch municipalities working with Foundation for Public Code), documentation of ownership of data, application of Open Standards (see this survey),  open Data Models & Ontologies (like in Amsterdam), Local Data Spaces Policy (starting with Energy, adding Smart Cities and Mobility later on), etc.

Digital solutions can provide a basis for progress in urban processes and facilitate decision-making by cities with citizens to drive action.

It is also very important the interoperability mechanisms and frameworks, such as the Living.in-EU / MIM Plus, the European Interoperability Framework for Smart Cities and Communities (EIF4SCC), and the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC); as well as agile systems development.


References:

[1] https://www.gesi.org/events/report-launch-digital-solutions-for-climate-action

[2] https://digital-europe-website-v1.s3.fr-par.scw.cloud/uploads/2020/10/DIGITALEUROPE_How-to-spend-it_A-digital-investment-plan-for-Europe.pdf

[3] https://www.iea.org/reports/digitalisation-and-energy

[4] https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/864bbbe7-f1d9-11ec-a534-01aa75ed71a1/language-en


LIST OF DIGITAL SOLUTIONS IN NetZeroCities:

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Awareness raisingCitizen participationGovernance and policyAir qualityClimate resilienceAnalytics and modellingBuildingEnergyTechnologyTransport and mobility

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