The Role of Information Technology: Implementing the New Urban Agenda to Achieve Sustainable Development

United Nations Headquarters New York City June 20, 2018, 9am – 6pm, Conference Room 2

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This conference will examine the impact of technology on cities now and in the future. It will look at how advancing technology can be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) related to cities and implementation of the New Urban Agenda.




The future of the planet is determined by the confluence of major forces. Technology, demographics, politics, environment and multinational corporations have a major impact the quality of life and, some say, the survival of humankind. Technology has transformed the world in fundamental ways. Information, once the purview of industrialized nations has become ubiquitous. Information Technology has had an impact on mass migration, political unrest, and poverty, the rate of innovation, automation, economic development and resource allocation.

Major United Nations initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals set a worldwide agenda about how best to face the future. 192 nations agreed to develop national policies within the framework of the SDGs  and the New Urban Agenda agreed to in Quito at HABITAT III in 2016 . They represent an ambitious undertaking, which could have far-reaching consequences in defining our common destiny in urban and rural areas.

Save for unpredictable political and environmental upheavals, none of the major forces will have more of an impact on people’s lives than technology. Technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. There have been more technological breakthroughs in the last two decades than since the beginning of time. Technology is inexorably changing every aspect of people’s lives. Cities will be increasingly run using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Sensors will trigger anticipatory responses. Technology will revolutionize energy production, education, transportation and resource allocation. Just as smart phones transformed the developing world in the last 10 years, decentralization of power generation will transform the economic trajectory of developing nations in the next 10 years. Technology can play a major role in addressing social inequities and other human rights issues.

Large multinational corporations will play an increasing role. Many large corporations have annual revenues larger than the GDP of more than half the world’s countries. Cities and city governments are on the ascendancy. Economic competition is shifting to Local and Regional governments. These new realities create a new political landscape for the future of cities.

Decision-making, at all levels of government needs to be data driven and informed. Short political election cycles are incompatible with long-term strategies. Generating the political will to implement long-term measures is a major challenge. Priorities are often determined by a series of short-term measures based on expedience. Creating and maintaining the political will to implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will be critical to shaping a desirable future.

This conference will examine the impact of technology on cities now and in the future. It will look at how advancing technology can be used to achieve the sustainable development goals related to cities and implement the New Urban Agenda. The advent of driverless cars, automation, artificial intelligence and infinite data will play an increasing role in defining the future of urban living and its sustainability.

This conference aims to showcase good examples of how advanced technology can improve urban sustainability now and in the future. It will also analyze challenges and opportunities of the trends of how advanced technology is shaping cities in its three panels.


Technology can be an enabler for improving the human condition. Doing things better, faster and cheaper is a never ending quest which makes no distinction between that which is possible and that which is desirable. Societies need to decide how to harness technology to lead to a more equitable and just future.


Technology is playing an ever increasing role in the running of cities, in being responsive to citizens, in participatory decision making and in planning the future. Cities are living things which regenerate and grow over time – they are not an algorithm.


Cities need the cooperation and participation of its citizens in shaping the future. The concept of investing today in plans which will not come to fruition for decades requires good leadership to generate the necessary political will and a belief in a common destiny.