A one-of-a-kind platform for digital transformation: the U4SSC Austrian Country Hub
Digital transformation is here to stay and will help make cities and communities smarter, more competitive, and more efficient. It offers a unique opportunity to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is increasingly being embraced to drive urban governance, address socio-spatial disparities, and promote integrated sustainable development. With the right guidance, tools, and resources, digital transformation can help cities serve their inhabitants better, enable and empower them in their day-to-day lives, and build inclusive and resilient communities that enhance the human urban experience for all.
Therefore, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), together with other organizations and UN agencies, have been organizing a series of webinars on “Digital transformation for cities and communities” running from September 2021 through to December 2022. The 20th session, titled “A one-of-a-kind platform for digital transformation: the U4SSC Austrian Country Hub,” introduced the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) Country Hub in Austria, which was established by the Austrian Economics Center in Vienna. The session presented the many activities of the hub in promoting the U4SSC Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for Smart Sustainable Cities. It also highlighted the benefits and advantages of implementing the U4SSC KPIs in Austrian cities.
In his opening remarks, Bilel Jamoussi, Chief of the Study Groups Department at ITU, stressed the importance of Smart City initiatives and embracing digital transformation for cities in response to the significant challenges caused by rapid urbanization in order to upgrade existing urban services, to enhance the quality of life for inhabitants and to promote sustainable development in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals. He also emphasized the issue of monitoring the progress of Smart City projects. In this regard, the U4SSC KPIs should be used to utilize and assess that progress and benchmark successful measures.
First U4SSC Country Hub in Vienna
U4SSC Austrian Country Hub Leader Barbara Kolm introduced the U4SCC hubs in her welcoming remarks. As a key player in the process to support country and region-specific Smart City transformations the idea of Country Hubs was brought up within the U4SCC initiative. The first one of these hubs was established in Vienna, to connect and facilitate cooperation between the public and private sector for the establishment of Smart Cities. These hubs also support the implementation of projects, builds partnerships and rallies experts from the national and local level.
Digitalization and Supply Chains
The first speaker was Andreas Weber, senior expert at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Austria. He introduced the role of the department for telecommunication, postal services and mining at the Ministry of Finance with regard to digitalization in the Austrian Economy. He continued, stressing the importance of raw materials for Smart City projects. Concerning these raw materials Austria and Europe in general is underexplored compared to other regions. Therefore, Europe is dependent on other countries in this regard. Therefore, the department plans to establish a tool that monitors these supply chains in order to be able to react to any incidents.
How to become Smart
The next speaker was Christina Bueti, Focal Point on Environment and Smart Sustainable Cities at ITU, who introduced the activities of U4SSC. U4SSC is a UN initiative that serves as a platform to advocate for public policy and to encourage the use of digital technologies to facilitate and ease the transition to smart sustainable cities. It currently (2022) has six thematic groups which are working on reports and guidelines on different topics including “Artificial Intelligence in Cities,” “Procurement for Smart Sustainable Cities” or “Innovative Financing for Smart Sustainable Cities Projects.” U4SSC has also developed the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which are a vital policy tool for cities wishing to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Christina Bueti also outlined how cities can join the U4SSC program.
How to measure Success
Finally, John Smiciklas, U4SSC KPI Verifier, gave a deeper insight into the role of the KPIs. The indicators are divided into three dimensions: Economy, Environment and Society as well as Culture which are again divided into various categories. Each indicator has a description for: the rationale for choosing the indicator; how the indicator should be interpreted; what benchmarking trends are considered desirable; the methodology for calculating the value to be reported and potential sources of data. John Smiciklas also showed some examples of KPIs and how they are applied to some of the participating cities like Wels in Austria for example.
Afterwards, Paolo Gemma, vice-chair of U4SSC, thanked the participants and emphasised once more the importance of digital transformation for cities.
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