Novo Mesto, a small Slovenian city located on the scenic River Krka, has been struggling with air pollution for the past decade. In the winter, the number of soot particles in the air can exceed the EU’s limits several times per week.

The city worked with data company SAP and Telekom Slovenia to install sensors all over the city. That helped it collect and analyse air quality data and implement the right measures to curb pollution.

Novo Mesto is proof that even a small city can serve as an example of quality urban life, says U Chee Lioy, Industry Cluster Lead for Public Sector, SAP Southeast Asia. He discusses how data can shape the future of sustainable living.

The urgent climate crisis

The climate crisis has never been this urgent. Research published in scientific journal Nature revealed that nearly all of the world’s glaciers are losing mass at an ever increasing pace. That contributes to more than a fifth of global sea level rise this century.

Singapore has also embarked on a whole-of-nation effort to advance the country’s climate agenda and achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible. The Green Plan has set out grand targets to plant one million more trees, and build eight electric vehicle-ready towns with charging points at all public housing car parks by 2025.

These efforts are crucial, as the low-lying country is especially vulnerable to climate change. 30 per cent of the island is less than five metres above sea level, and any increase in sea levels could post an “existential threat”, said Lawrence Wong, then-Minister for Education.

“As a small city-state, we have a very small margin of error compared to larger, better-resourced nations. So we must never rest on our laurels,” he wrote in GovInsider.

SAP is committed to partnering agencies in their sustainability efforts, Chee Lioy says. The company has embarked on an initiative, Climate 21, to promote discussions around sustainability and help agencies reduce their carbon footprint.

The crucial role of data

Data has a key role to play in the fight against climate change, Chee Lioy says. It can help to accurately measure the carbon footprint of agencies’ operations or assess the carbon footprint of products, for instance.

Singapore is funding a Dutch-led research project to monitor emissions from diesel vehicles in real time. Hong Kong, on the other hand, has used sensors and data to help ageing government buildings like the Cultural Centre become more energy efficient.

Canada has turned to AI to produce chemical substances that accelerate the production of clean energy. It’s also using AI and data to prepare the country’s infrastructure for electric vehicles, its Digital Government Minister told GovInsider.

SAP supports governments’ climate efforts by embedding sustainability into its analytics applications, Chee Lioy says. It provides customers with sources of more sustainable products, and also provides visibility on waste flows to help agencies towards zero waste.

SAP has worked with the city council of Heidelberg, a town in Germany, to streamline waste management. If a container exceeds a certain capacity, a request will automatically be created for trucks to empty the waste at disposal sites.

That helps waste management services empty containers at the right time, Chee Lioy says. That reduces both noise pollution and the carbon emissions caused by unnecessary waste vehicles on the street.

Tech for a better future

“Sustainability is core to SAP’s purpose to help the world run better and improve people’s lives”. The company is committed to helping countries achieve the sustainable development goals (SDG), Chee Lioy says.

Helping citizens live well at all ages is one SDG that have become more prominent for ageing populations in countries like Singapore and Japan, for instance. About 25 per cent of Japan’s population is currently above 65, and this will increase to 40 per cent by 2060, according to World Bank data.

SAP is supporting countries in caring for the elderly, Chee Lioy says. Its Digital Aged Care team in Australia has created an analytics platform that collects and aggregates data from devices such as wearables and sensors.

That helped the team understand patterns of everyday living and early signs of health ailments. These insights were shared with care providers to predict risk and better care for the elderly. SAP is kicking off pilots in India, Japan, and Australia.

The issues of climate change and ageing crisis are looming. Technology is the enabler, but people are the world’s most promising solution to these issues. International collaborations, as well as partnerships between the private and public sector, will be crucial.

Image by sasa.muticCC BY-NC-ND 2.0