Mr. Okan Geray is part of the U4SSC Management Team and leads the deliverable “Guidelines on strategies for Circular Cities” globally in the main committee of development strategies, Climate Change and Circular Economy of United Nations.
I have had the honour of participating as an expert in development in the development of a deliverable: “Guidelines on strategies for circular cities”, that this international organization has carried out during this last year.
By publishing this “Post” I congratulate Mr. Okan for the excellent work done, cordiality and also by allowing me to do an interview for the OSICO blog related to this initiative of sustainable development / resilientes.
Mr. Okan’s professional experience
Mr. Okan Geray is a computer expert doctor. He holds a double major degree in Industrial Engineering and Computer Engineering from the Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Turkey, a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering and Control from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the United States. He has published articles in magazines and conferences and has been an assistant professor of management for 15 years.
His professional career is extensive, with more than 20 years of experience in management consulting in various industries. He has been consultant for several organizations in Holland, France, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Turkey and Dubai. He worked at the global management consultancy firm AT Kearney for 6 years and was a member of the central telecommunications and high technology team before joining the Government of Dubai in 2002.
He worked as a strategic planning consultant in the electronic government of Dubai, the Intelligent Government of Dubai and more recently in the Smart Dubai office after its creation, where he is the Strategic Planning Advisor of the Smart Dubai Office (SDO). They include strategic planning, strategic performance management, policy formulation and global thinking leadership.
Co-Chair of the Working Group to Improve Innovation and Participation in the United Global Initiative for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) of the ITU and UNECE. This working group addressed the aspects of “Smart Governance”, “Smart Economy” and “Smart People” in smart cities. He currently leads two global deliverables in U4SSC; namely, “Guidelines on strategies for circular cities” and “City Science Application Framework”.
He is the co-chair of the working group “Impact of data economy, commercialization and monetization” in the ITU Focus Group on data processing and management. He is also the co-rapporteur of question 7 of the ITU Study Group 20 on “Assessment and evaluation of smart and sustainable cities and communities”.
The case study of “Smart Dubái”
The case study “Implementing ITU-T International Standards to Shape Smart Sustainable Cities: The Case of Dubai” details the ambition of Dubai and the pioneering journey towards becoming an intelligent city, a company that deserves to serve as an example for other cities smart people from all over the world who have identical aspirations.
Dubai is one of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a very vibrant city with a population of approximately 3 million people in the Arabian Gulf region. Dubai has set itself an ambitious course through a rapid and successful transformation in the economic and social sectors.
Over the past 40 years, Dubai has witnessed a transformation from a tranquil pearl diving village to one of the most visited cities in the world and home to the busiest airport in the world; the ninth largest port in the world; and the tallest building in the world.
Dubai has established itself as a solid economy that maintains significant economic growth over the years. It acts as the leading economic center in the region with successful economic diversification. Sectors such as trade and logistics, tourism, financial services, retail and real estate have played a key role in Dubai’s economic achievements and are complemented by a very modern urban infrastructure. Dubai is currently in its third generation of digital transformation and the city has already fostered public acceptance and adoption of ICTs in all aspects of life.
In line with its vision, the Smart Dubai initiative has structured its strategic approach to adopt the latest technological innovation that will make the experiences of the city fluid, safe, personalized and efficient, providing a better quality of life and business experiences to contribute to Make Dubai the happiest. City on Earth. The Smart Dubai initiative plays a key role in guiding and enabling the ongoing digital transformation of the city in all sectors.
As a result of all this effort has been granted to Smart Dubai (Winner on Dubai Paperless Strategy) interactive innovation SXSW 2019 (Conference and Festivals of South by Southwest -Austin, Texas).
The new challenges of cities
The cities of today are transforming constantly and quickly. Many and important are some of the challenges we currently have are social, technological, economic. environmental, security, immigration, employment, training and transit of thought, among others.
On the one hand, the presence of some of these challenges, whether related to climate change, natural disasters, depletion of natural resources, security, among others, is causing us constant concern. It can be easily appreciated, as more and more intensively as ecological, environmental and energy challenges go hand in hand.
On the other hand, some others, such as the challenges related to security, immigration, pollution, cybersecurity … to say some of them, are already surpassing us all, since these challenges can not be addressed if it is not from a strategic approach of global character, and if I hurry to say it, in some cases, they are acquiring an existential character.
Technological advances, the appearance of new business models and the urgent need to cushion the effects of inequality and poverty, as well as mitigate the devastating effects of climate change, among others, mean that cities around the world have to prepare for the best possible way to face these challenges, which forces the incorporation of a process of sustainable and in many cases resilient development into Institutional Governance strategies.
If there are two recent developments of our economic and social development, which are causing an authentic revolution in our society, they are on the one hand the “Digital Economy, thanks to the advances of the Internet and other technologies. The other is, without a doubt, the “Circular Economy”, as a new development model, which identifies a series of processes in our economy.
Development strategies are changing little by little, sometimes you can not get up to the circumstances. We have passed, in a few years of having challenges focused on infrastructure, the environment, health, education … mainly, to have to adapt our challenges to constant technological advances, as well as to change from one model of the linear economy to another of a circular nature, as is what the circular economy represents.
However, the policy deployed by Multilevel Institutional Governance has not changed much, innovation is minimal, and we have to realize that the challenges we currently have are extremely complex, which disrupt our functioning system of the economy and the society.
Indeed, electric cars, robotics, process automation, drones, blockchain, artificial intelligence, security, immigration, climate change, building systems, poverty and social exclusion, once again , they are putting us in evidence, since they require proposals of global character, of experimentation of policies, but also of social innovation. To this, we must add that we must deal with problems of an ethical and moral nature, which we can not ignore.
According to the UN, “the smart city is an opportunity for the territories and their inhabitants. Properly built and based on needs, the city of intelligence can improve public services, making them more personalized and more efficient. However, for smart cities to develop for the benefit of all, we must put the citizen at the center, as well as reaffirm the role of local authorities as agents of trust, guarantors of equality and creators of social links and innovations.
All this, necessarily involves the establishment of long-term strategies, which are capable of strengthening all the actors that are part of the cities, involving all of them, increasing their digital capacity, in order to allow cities to benefit of all this collective intelligence.
Interview with Okan Geray
From the United Nations, collaboration is requested to offer new expert advice to stimulate the transition towards smart and sustainable cities. Legislators and urban planners are urged to capitalize on information and communication technologies.
1. Do you believe that States are creating the right conditions for the development of development strategies that successfully face the current challenges?
– Nations, and even to a certain extent cities, today are formulating their own development strategies encompassing economic, social and environmental aspects. UN member states have adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and are in the process of implementing them until 2030. Hence nations and cities are aligning their particular needs together with the UN SDGs. This creates the right environment and also the context for tailored development strategies.
2. Do you think that the ITU-T international standards implementation initiative that the city of Dubai has made can become a reference for other cities when implementing the ITU international standards? -T?
– Dubai was the first city to embark on the implementation of ITU international standards. It has worked closely with ITU in establishing a measurement framework for smart sustainable cities including Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
– I believe our experience in Dubai plays a role model for other cities which are on course for their own implementations. They can learn from our own experience and also tailor it to their own needs. In fact, subsequent to Dubai, other cities have also embarked on implementing ITU standards paving the way for their larger scale worldwide adoption. Needless to say, further adoption by other cities will help enhance these standards and will also allow knowledge exchange among cities for their implementation.
“A sustainable smart city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICT) and other means to improve the quality of life, the efficiency of operation and urban services, and competitiveness, ensuring that it meets the needs of the present and future generations with respect to the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects “.
3. What role do you think ICT will have in addressing the most important challenges related to sustainable development, especially climate change, energy efficiency and the circular economy?
– ICT has a very powerful enabling role in addressing challenges related to sustainable development, especially climate change, energy efficiency and the circular economy. I strongly believe in identifying these challenges at the business level together with their measurement aspects and concrete quantifiable targets for achievement.
– ICT can then act as a robust tool to achieve these targets by closing various gaps during implementation. Practical use cases will enable tangible ICT implementations. Frontier technologies today possess an enormous potential for application to address the aforementioned challenges.
4. How do you see the potential of Industry 4.0 for the transformation of the modern industrial landscape?
– Industry 4.0 has a very strong portfolio of emerging / frontier technologies which nations and cities can leverage in transforming their industrial landscape. The horizontal and widely applicable nature of these technologies allow them to be utilized in different sectors and industries. The potential is there and enormous for most organizations. However, it would be advisable to formulate strong business cases prior to implementation to ensure the achievement of intended results. I believe the next decade will witness proliferation of these technologies in the modern industrial landscape.
In relation to the “Circular Economy”, as a new development model of economic and social development.
As we know, the circular economy is a serious attempt to find a sustainable economy that is able to reduce, reuse and recycle different products in a clear imitation as nature does.
It is a model of economic and social development that affects the way and the way in which they behave before what has traditionally been produced, used and thrown away.
5. What do you think about this new approach and paradigm, which breaks completely over our traditional way of acting, both economically and socially?
– There are many characteristics that refer to the circular economy, since they refer to the design of products without waste, increase the recovery and durability of products, or use renewable energy. This forces us to think about systems and integrate the schools of thought that are part of this new concept: performance economics, “Cradle to Cradle”, industrial ecology, biomimicry, the blue economy or natural capitalism, among others.
– This broad paradigm poses a huge potential in social, economic and environmental contexts. It also forces us to rethink and fundamentally change our consumption patterns, supply chain operations and how we source, utilize and dispose goods and services. Various circular actions such as sharing, reusing, recycling, etc. should be considered seriously in different contexts. We live in exciting times to potentially redesign our societies and economies.
6. Do you believe that citizens, companies and civil society are in a position, in the short or medium term, to successfully face this new scenario? What do you think should be undertaken in the first place?
– I believe all the stakeholders in nations and cities should be engaged to ensure success in this transformation. Public sector can play a leadership and facilitation role in coming up with a unified and shared visión. Citizens, NGOs, civil society, private sector have all major benefits to accrue from this transformation. A shared and commonly believed strategic plan would be a good starting point with short, medium and long-term actions in it. Quick wins would accelerate the buy-in and achieve tangible results perceived by various stakeholders.
– There is a huge number of potential circular actions that can be taken so an appropriate prioritization would be necessary by considering each nation / city’s own specific circumstances.
7. What are the main obstacles or barriers that may hinder the implementation of the circular economy?
– Awareness of the concept itself is the obvious one that comes to mind. However, there are several other potential barriers which are indicated below non-exhaustively:
- Lack of Knowledge and skills
- Lack of a common shared vision and strategy
- Lack of regulations, policies and standards
- Vested interests in current non-circular economy
- Lack of incentives
- Scarce start-up and entrepreneurial activity for circular innovation
- Social and behavioral barriers impeding implementation
- Lack of understanding of the benefits of circular economy.
8. What do you think is the best way to make the transition from thinking towards a sustainable development and towards a circular economy in particular, taking into account that there are many economic, social and political actors that intervene in innovation systems?
– The circular economy by its very nature requires a close effective collaboration between all the actors of the development process, be they economic, social and political. A better collaboration and greater Multilevel Governance would potentially ease the transition.
– The engagement and buy-in of various stakeholders are also very important. Each stakeholder needs to understand what is expected of him/her and the benefits he/she will achieve as a result.
9. Do you think that the current Institutional Governance is in a position to face the rigor and challenge of putting the circular economy into practice?
– I am sure the answer will differ with respect to circular maturity of each governing jurisdiction. On one hand, we see vanguard cities, nations and organizations already delivering tangible results. On the other hand, scaling it up to the global level will require significant work in institutional governance at the global level. This also creates a massive opportunity for further change.
Innovation in the Circular Economy
The process of Innovation is certainly difficult, since it requires the acquisition of knowledge, experience, aptitudes, abilities, skills, good practices, as well as tools at the service of it.
The complexity of this innovation system requires, as we have seen previously, the establishment of a strategic, holistic and at the same time systemic process, where ideas, data and knowledge can be combined to face the challenges of development, where ICTs, collective intelligence, as well as experimentation, including Institutional Governance, will be key in this process.
10.What opportunities and implications do you think the Circular Economy will have in our society?
– The transition to circular economy will entail enormous innovation potential. It can create new economic sectors and, associated with it, new job opportunities. It can flourish new start-ups with massive entrepreneurial activity. It can fundamentally change our economies while simultaneously creating positive social and environmental impacts. Our consumption patterns may transform substantially. All the ingredients and requirements of circular economy are well known today; we just need to shift our current paradigms and act on this new opportunity.
11.Do you think it would be desirable, that this new thinking that represents the circular economy, should also acquire systems of innovation, beyond the economy, capable of extending the principles that inspire it, to all the challenges / components of the cities?
– In ITU, and more specifically in the U4SSC program, we have already comprehended this innovation potential being extended to cities. Hence, we have undertaken a huge work to identify application of circularity to different potentials in the city, such as city resources, infrastructure and products.
– Consequently, we have created a circular city framework which will help cities to identify a long list of innovation potential in social, economic and environmental contexts. We have also provided a list of enablers that cities can use to boost and catalyse their circularity implementations. We have also gone one step further and provided case studies from real city implementations of circularity across the globe.
– This U4SSC work aims to accelerate circularity adoption in cities and helps them understand the potential as well as practical applications of it. It is targeted be released as a U4SSC publication during the fourth quarter of 2019.