Fueling a sustainable post-pandemic recovery

Two Govt executives discussion the city's sustainability plans with the help of a miniature model of the city

As municipal leaders across Canada continue to navigate the road to economic recovery, it is critical to consider how investing in sustainable technology and smart infrastructure can enable communities to not just recover from the pandemic but come back stronger than before. According to a recent report from the International Monetary Fund, government policies “should enable a green, digital and inclusive transformation of the economy” prioritizing projects in collaboration with the private sector. Our current situation presents the unique opportunity for municipalities to rethink “business as usual” and discover how leveraging the right cloud and AI solutions will allow them to improve citizen services, support economic growth and successfully manage future disruption.

Smarter, more sustainable technology

At Microsoft, we’re accelerating progress toward a greener future by conducting research, helping our customers build sustainable solutions and advocating for policies that benefit the environment. As part of our ongoing efforts, we recently unveiled our latest industry-specific cloud at Inspire 2021, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability. Whether it is for the private or public sector, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability’s offerings can discover and connect to real-time data sources, accelerate data integration and reporting, provide accurate carbon accounting, measure performance against goals and enable intelligent insights to ultimately power smarter communities.

However, what makes a community “smart” isn’t technology, according to Jeremy Goldberg, Worldwide Public Sector Director of Critical Infrastructure at Microsoft. It’s the degree to which technology gives residents better lives, thriving businesses and governments that provide great service. At Microsoft, we are uniquely positioned to help organizations and communities transform the way they operate to drive smarter business decisions for the betterment of the world. And it is through this approach that we’ve empowered cities like Bogota, Colombia, and London, United Kingdom, to drive innovation and implement cutting-edge technology for more sustainable urban infrastructures and a better quality of life for citizens. 

Leveraging data to power cities of the future

Part of Bogota’s plan to develop a smarter community is the New Mobility Agreement, an initiative which empowers every citizen to rethink their priorities and mode of transportation to get around the city. After seeing an increase in walking and cycling, Bogota’s municipal leaders implemented new technology that enables citizens to make better use of existing infrastructure with multi-modal options to plan trips. The technology also leverages data analysis for city officials to establish speed limits that make the routes safer for all.

Meanwhile in London, as part of the city’s Green New Deal, the Mayor has set an ambitious goal for 80% of citizen journeys to be by walking, cycling and via public transport by the 2040s. As a result, new technologies play a big role in improving the capacity and efficiency of existing infrastructure. With mobility technologies generating large amounts of data, the municipal government has made the information collected freely available so that citizens can make more informed choices on how to travel and developers can design more useful mobile applications for their customers.  

Municipal planners are also using the data and analytics collected from these technologies to drive better planning and customer services. Shashi Verma, Director of Strategy and Chief Technology Officer of Transport for London, says the most impactful implementation of mobility technology in London was the development and deployment of contactless payment technology. In 2003, London introduced the Oyster card, a proprietary, closed loop system for payments. This was followed by an open loop system, contactless bank cards, first used in 2012. For a relatively low-cost implementation, Verma says it has had a huge impact, completely changing the way the travelling public interacts with the transport system.

Prioritizing sustainability for municipal recovery

Our cities can only thrive in a post-pandemic world by building and upgrading infrastructure that makes urban spaces and citizen services work for everyone. According to Microsoft’s leading voice on this matter, Jeremy Goldberg, failing to invest in environmentally sustainable technologies now is a form of technical debt, and this debt will come due in the years ahead.  

However, sustainability also means implementing technology that governments can effectively manage and operate. The reality is that governments are balancing budget requirements and workforce constraints that make technology challenging to procure and maintain. Jeremy says this places a premium on solutions that are easily extensible and can be maintained and operated more efficiently. It also underscores the need for public and private collaboration, with partners that offer expert resources with extensive experience providing managed services in the cloud.  

Canadian municipalities need reliable data center infrastructure that meets compliance and regulations; however, governments often struggle to maintain their own infrastructure over time due to funding and policy challenges. Microsoft Azure offers solutions that can cut across the needs of many different agencies, compliance challenges, and technologies – it provides a common platform that can be adopted quickly or incrementally as needed without having to reinvent the wheel every time a new project rises to a high priority or receives long awaited funding.  

No matter where you are in your sustainability journey, it’s never too late to start. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is empowering public sector organizations to harness the power of cloud-based technology to help build a more sustainable future for Canada. ​ 

For more information, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/sustainability