ITU indicators (International Telecommunication Union)

How do you measure a city’s sustainability and digital maturity?

What do Valencia, Singapore, Nairobi, San Diego, and Pully have in common? All these cities have been invited by the International Telecommunication Union (hereinafter ITU), a United Nations agency in charge of the worldwide development of information and communication technologies (hereinafter ICT), to test indicators measuring the cities’ performance in the areas of sustainable development and digitization. When this inventory was complete, the ITU gave Pully a certification for its aspiration to become a “Smart Sustainable City”.

More than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. It is therefore essential to implement ecological and sustainable solutions first and foremost in urban centers in order to fight global warming, pollution, and poverty. To make cities more harmonious and to put citizens’ wellbeing at the core, information and communication technologies are a valuable tool, whether for network management, mobility, or waste sorting.

The purpose of the ITU’s “United for Smart Sustainable Cities” (U4SSC) project is to measure cities’ sustainability and digitization performance based on a list of 86 criteria. The goal: to have a global reference system between countries. As of 2017, around fifty countries around the world – including Pully for Switzerland – have started collecting their indicators. These criteria include the number of public buildings labelled “sustainable construction”, the renewable energy consumed in the city, the kilometers of bicycle paths and green spaces in the city per resident, and even eGovernment (administrative documents and certificates delivered electronically). Also, a census database allows cities to identify efficiency projects to pursue or achieve them.

Why Pully? Our municipality makes for an appealing example to represent Switzerland due to its size – small enough to be agile, large enough to have competent specialists – and its status as a secondary city in an urban area. To establish the diagnosis of the ITU indicators, a public-private partnership was establishment with Swisscom, which made an economist-in-training available to the civil service. For five months, information was collected from the City’s various departments as well as from the Canton and the Confederation. When the indexing was complete, an audit was conducted to evaluate Pully’s indicators. And on April 26, 2018, Pully was awarded ITU certification T Y.4903/L.1603 “Smart Sustainable City”, at a ceremony organized in Málaga (see photos).



The 86 ITU indicators fall into four categories:

  1. infrastructure and access to ICTs
  2. access to ICTs and their use by households and individuals
  3. use of ICTs by companies
  4. ICT sector and trade in ICT goods


What does ITU certification measure?

As of now, the “United for Smart and Sustainable Cities” (U4SSC) certification is the only certification of its kind at the international level: it certifies that the City of Pully has measured its level of sustainability and digitization according to the U4SSC standard. However, this method does not suggest “threshold values” to be achieved. Indeed, these must be set by the cities based on their context or in consultation with the cantonal or federal authorities. In other words, just because Pully has received this certification does not mean that it is a smart and sustainable city: the method simply offers a perspective on how to achieve this goal. A report on the implementation experience of the indicators by the City of Pully will be published in early 2019.


Perspective: ITU, U4SSC, and “Sustainable Development Goals”

The ITU is a specialized United Nations institution for information and communication technologies (ICTs). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are comprised of 17 goals set by UN Member States to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. As for the U4SSC platform, it was created to achieve the 11th objective, “Make Cities Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable,” by encouraging public policies to rely on ICTs.