MIAMI—Ericsson, in concert with a Networked Society Forum (NEST) event here Nov. 19, released a Networked City Index report ranking 31 cities on their information and communications technology (ICT) maturity. There is a strong correlation, says Ericsson, between ICT maturity and societal, economic and environmental development—what it calls the “Triple Bottom Line.”
Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson’s home city, topped the ICT ranking, followed by London and Singapore, respectively.
Filling out the top 10 were Paris, ranking fourth, then Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Hong Kong; New York; Helsinki, Finland; and Tokyo, respectively. Dhaka, Bangladesh, took the last spot, with Karachi, Pakistan, just above it.
The report further came with the prediction that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, up from the 50 percent that do today. In the “networked society” taking shape, “intelligent networks will be critical to the basic functioning of our cities and to their success in meeting current and emerging challenges,” said the report.
“ICT significantly speeds up interactions between various actors, making them more intense and cost-effective,” Patrik Regårdh, head of Ericsson’s Networked Society Lab, said in a statement. “The reduced cost of information exchange and transactions lowers the threshold for new enterprises and collaborations. As a result, a city’s economic development becomes vitalized.”
To determine a city’s ICT maturity, the Index considered three dimensions of ICT—infrastructure, considered an engine for connected cities; affordability, since it helps spread ICT; and service usage, measuring how well current ICT solutions are being embraced.
The 2013 Index included six more cities than earlier reports—among them more Scandinavian cities, providing more context around Stockholm. It also dropped some aged-out-of-relevance indicators, like fixed telephony, and added indicators for open data, smartphones and tablets.
The report offers city leaders several pieces of advice. Among them, to have a clear strategy for implementing ICT into their vision for their cities; to better leverage ICT when considering transportation, health and education investments; to stimulate the development of new goods and services that promote public-private partnerships; and to create policies that promote collaboration with other cities to build knowledge and create economies of scale through common frameworks.
The Triple Bottom Line
Detailing the social or societal element of ICT, Ericsson reports that ICT “plays, and will play, an important role in many areas connected to social development, such as health care or interaction between citizens and government, improved access to education and housing or increased safety and security in urban environments.”
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Cities are also “engines of economic growth,” it continues, on the second point of economic development. “ICT contributes to productivity, innovation, trade and economic growth in both developed and emerging economies. The impact of ICT goes well beyond the ICT sector itself, because of its spillover effects to the rest of the economy.”
At the NEST event, John Rossant, chairman of the New Cities Foundation, offered an example.
“The issue of commuting costs the American economy up to $100 billion a year,” he said. “If we could use smart networks and big data, maybe we could do some good.”
Miami-Dade County is already working on this, CIO Angel Petisco said during a presentation at the event, in which he described ICT-focused ways in which the county is working to address its traffic problems. They include incentivizing people to take public transportation, including with free WiFi, and partnering with local businesses that offer coupons and deals to those on public transportation, helping to better distribute people around the city.
Regarding ICT’s environmental impact, the Ericsson report calls cities “key players” in battling climate change, while pointing out that they have much to lose if the battle is lost.
That said, ICT maturity has both positive and negative effects on the environment, but it can provide tools that raise people’s environmental awareness and influence and change their behaviors.
“Information technology-based solutions could in many ways be the foundation on which citizens’ economic productivity and quality of life are maximized,” said the report, “while resource consumption and pollution are minimized.”
Rethinking the Urban Life
ICT is enabling trends and new thinking in cities, says Ericsson. For example, people in cities are rethinking the norms of private ownership and are more open to sharing or renting out once very private possessions, like their homes and their cars. Connected cities are also less about singular efficiencies than full ecosystems of information and services that improve people’s lives.
Currently, there are 24 megacities in the world—cities with more than 10 million people—though the metrics are constantly changing, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg said at the NEST event. Every hour, 7,500 people are moving to a city, building toward the total 7 billion people that are expected to live in cities by 2050.
He added that by 2019, three times as many people on Earth will have access to the Internet, many of them for the first time through a smartphone. Skipping dial-up modems and desktops, laptops and feature phones, they will essentially be starting their online experience at what for the rest of us is the end of an evolved line of devices.
Pointing out how far we’ve come in just the last 25 years, Vestberg added, “The pace of change will never again be this slow.”