International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

  • Viewed - 8529


International Telecommunication Union


ITU is the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). It works in three main areas: radiocommunication, ICT standardization and ICT development to enhance access to ICTs and bridge the digital divide among and within countries.

ITU defines a smart sustainable city as “an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects”.


ITU standardization work for “Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities”


It is led by ITU-T Study Group 20, where ITU members work collaboratively in establishing the technical foundations for smart city innovation, helping cities to innovate efficiently and at scale. An important aspect of this work is the development of standards supporting sustainable urban development.

ITU, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) operate a Joint Task Force to coordinate international standardization for smart cities. The Joint Task Force ensures that standards bodies capitalize on synergies to develop comprehensive standardization solutions for smart cities.

ITU, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UN-Habitat coordinate “United for Smart Sustainable Cities” (U4SSC), a UN initiative supported by 17 UN bodies with the aim of achieving SDG11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Over 150 cities worldwide are evaluating their progress towards smart city objectives and the SDGs using U4SSC Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities based on ITU standards. The results of the KPI evaluations are shared by city snapshots, factsheets and verification reports. The U4SSC implementation programme is supporting cities’ pursuit of the SDGs by working together with national administrations and city leaders to building a comprehensive approach to smart city development, looking at both KPI evaluations and wider national contexts for planning and action.

U4SSC is an open platform and is developing a series of reports and guidelines on various topics including:
• smart city platforms supporting the digital transformation of public services and their integrated management
• Economic recovery in cities and urban resilience building in times of COVID-19
• Innovative Financing Instruments for Smart Sustainable Cities
• Guiding principles for artificial intelligence in cities
• Procurement Guidelines for Smart Sustainable Cities

ITU stimulates inclusive dialogue on the topic of smart sustainable cities, including through the ITU webinar series on “digital transformation for cities and communities” running from September through December 2021.


World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum


In relation to the role of ICTs in achieving social, economic and sustainable development, ITU hosts and organizes the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum, the largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community. The central values and principles of WSIS are to promote and accelerate the use of ICTs and digital technologies for the inclusive, resilient and sustainable societies and economies of all. Hence, WSIS helps share best practices and develop multi-stakeholder and public/private partnerships to advance development goals in the areas of ICT.

As a multistakeholder Forum, WSIS is inclusive and provides a platform for all stakeholders to network learn and share. Smart Cities is an important topic that cuts across all WSIS Action Lines and Sustainable Development Goals. In 2021, the WSIS Forum included for the first time a panel with Mayors to discuss inclusive and responsible digitalization in the city. Cities play a key role in the deployment, use and management of digital technologies for the benefit of all citizens and they all face diverse risks and opportunities in that regard. It is therefore important to include them in the WSIS process to foster the exchange of digital know-how and experiences among cities, which must be recognized as stakeholders in their own right, with their local knowledge and proximity with the communities. Since 2022 a Mayors’ High-level round table has been part of WSIS Forum on the topic of Smart Cities.

Every year the Global Cities Hub proposes a relevant topic, such as the people-centered and climate-resilient smart city development. The event highlights different aspects of smartness of cities, including but not limited to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the protection of human rights, strengthening social inclusion, and advancing climate adaptation and resilience.


Additional resources



Contact persons


  • Ms Cristina Bueti, Counsellor to ITU-T Study Group 20 and ITU Focal Point for Environment and Smart Sustainable Cities,
  • Ms Gitanjali Sah, Strategy and Policy Coordinator, WSIS, ITU,


April 10, 2024