The need to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable as set by the Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (UN, 2020), has allowed to develop analytical frameworks seeking a practical application towards meeting 2030 targets and goals, but also stressing challenges found that have prevented its effective implementation. It is in the premise of this last item, that when seeking to implement and assess sustainability issues within the urban realm, performance assessment of these to determine their respective environmental load is crucial for the development of sustainable and smart cities and communities. It has been found developed countries tend to have a good quality of their built environment and urban spaces at a greater environmental load cost . The importance for developed countries to take a higher responsibility for the development and implementation of sustainable practices, methodologies and technology initiatives is paramount to compensate this behavior but moreover, to also promote good quality and sustainability performance of new built environment & infrastructure planning by developing metrics for its sustainability measurement. It is within these practices they can further influence developing countries seeking to achieve the same goals in a sustainable and responsible way. For the case of developing economies, despite efforts to make cities better places, research has found institutional inertia, current bureaucracy and tradition of using standard methodologies that have been effective in the past, but not necessarily considering the environmental load, might lock-out ideas and frameworks that can help cities achieve local sustainability goals . More importantly, the need to translate global indicator performance implementation into national contexts in developing countries, has also encountered challenges in areas of data disaggregation, lack of indicators on sustainability measures and limited comparability and expressiveness of the indicators .
GIS & Data challenges
In order to tackle these gaps in data, proposed methodologies at a local level adhering small and community data have been successfully being implemented to fill these gaps . Similar approaches have been taken in developed economies through the use of more reliable data such as GIS, currently being promoted by UN DESA’s Statistics Division towards a Federated Information System for the Sustainable Development Goals , and Digital Twin technologies implemented on localized areas within specific countries .
Monitoring the progress of global indicators, such as the SDGs, has been possible through Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted to the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development . Furthermore, modelling capability for supporting implementation of these global indicators at the national level exists, however the selection of appropriate modelling approaches and types is based on the priority given to sectoral issues of interest. More importantly, out of 80 framework models reviewed, not a single one has been found that can analyse all the variables of interest . In order to determine a priority methodology of developing metrics for measurement of sustainability in cities and communities, guides, toolkit, academic and research literature have been developed worldwide, however it has found country practice, on a legislature level, focuses more on coordination mechanisms, stakeholder consultation and mapping alignment, with no record of using spatial modelling to support global indicator implementation that can lead towards an integrated planning . Quantitative spatial and sectoral modelling approaches have also been developed to assist in the global indicator prioritisation, target selection and policy evaluation , but challenges remain to provide frameworks that could foresee tangible visualisation of its implementation for sustainable urban development.
Attempts have been made when developing smart & sustainable cities when creating integrated information ecosystem models containing sustainability, political and administrative spheres in the context of local government implementation using global indicators listed within the SDGs framework . Nonetheless, the challenge remains to determine what would be the variables and parameters that need to be taken into account in order to develop a prioritized framework specific to the country in question based on progress tracking of global indicators and performance benchmark assessment, that can further be transferred into the local context of communities and cities.