With almost 1 000 years of history under its belt, Moscow has transformed itself into a smart city in just seven years.

Today, the Moscow Smart City uses a variety of disruptive technologies including blockchain in an e-voting system; a widespread WiFi network; public online schools; and AI-based healthcare.

The city is home to more than 12-million residents, which is equivalent to the populations of Norway and Switzerland combined. Administrators decided that it must adopt a smart city concept to ensure the well-being of Muscovites, and to allow its administration and businesses to work more efficiently.

“This is why one of our fundamental pillars is to establish a constant dialogue with our citizens, so establishing the city-as-a-service concept,” says Artem Ermolaev, who was CIO of Moscow and head of the department of information technologies until this year. “Indeed, Moscow has become one of the world leaders in citizen engagement.

“This has been made possible because the city has infused its more than 220 public e-services within digital city management platforms like MOS RU, Crowd Mos, and blockchain-based Active Citizen to name but a few. These are used by Muscovites to suggest ideas, report local problems, initiate crowd sourcing and for voting on local matters.”

Since the project started in 2011, the city of Moscow has reached nearly 100% 4G and high-speed internet coverage. It is the second-largest WiFi-covered city in the world.

“Such a high level of connectivity gives Muscovites unlimited access to new knowledge and data that can drive innovation and result in a more favourable economic ambience,” says Ermolaev. “One of the best aspects of our actions and achievements is that they are observable and tangible.

“For instance, 12 500 new trees have appeared on the streets, greatly improving the livability of the city. At the same time, the number of pedestrians has been increased by 70%, indicating that the streets and sidewalks in Moscow have been made more pedestrian-friendly.”

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has done a case study that offers an evaluation of Moscow’s progress in meeting the objectives of its smart city strategies and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The case study, “Implementing ITU-T International Standards to Shape Smart Sustainable Cities: The Case of Moscow”, was undertaken using the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Smart Sustainable Cities developed by the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative.

The ITU case study traces Moscow’s smart city journey from its origins in Moscow’s Information City strategy launched in 2011 to its successor the Smart Moscow 2030 strategy. It highlights the role of Moscow’s government in coordinating the implementation of a wide-array of smart city projects in the city and how these projects have substantially improved the quality of life for city residents.”

The report assesses Moscow’s smart city performance using U4SSC indicators that measure impact on three dimensions: the economy; environment; and society and culture.

ICT is recognized as a key contributor to the Moscow economy. Building on its strengths and maintaining ICTs as a strategic lever, Moscow has adopted vibrant policies for ICT development and proliferation. These aspects are clearly reflected in the good performance by Moscow, as presented in the report, within the sub-dimensions of “ICT” and “Productivity”.

“Home to more than 12-million people, Moscow is the largest urban area on the European continent,” says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao. “Considering the size of Moscow and its population, this case study offers a unique set of lessons learned for other cities around the world developing a ‘smart city’ strategy. I commend Moscow’s leaders for their efforts to share these experiences and this knowledge with the international community, towards creating a ‘smart’ world for everyone, everywhere.”

Andrey Belozerov, strategy and innovations adviser to the CIO of Moscow, comments: “Moscow has made a rapid smart city journey from 2011 and we are keen on keeping up with the pace. No matter whether it is Moscow, Singapore or Barcelona – every city has the same task to make their residents’ lives enjoyable, safe and comfortable.”

The findings of the case study will feed into the work of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardisation Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 20, the expert group leading the development of ITU standards for the Internet of Things and smart cities. These standards assist in optimising the application of ICTs within smart cities, in addition to supporting efficient data processing and management. The findings will also be taken up by the U4SSC initiative, which advocates for public policy to ensure that ICTs, and ICT standards in particular, play a definitive role in the transition to Smart Sustainable Cities. U4SSC also promotes the adoption of international standards in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the reporting of associated experiences.

“We do believe that the U4SSC’s KPIs for Smart Sustainable Cities will support and foster further ICT adoption for Moscow and for other smart cities worldwide,” says Ermolaev.

Moscow’s path to becoming a leading smart sustainable city started in 2011 after its current Mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, took office. The overall city development strategy underwent a number of major changes, including the digitalisation of all city functions that would see most of the public services being delivered via digital platforms.

To achieve this, the Moscow City Government has centralised the city’s technical and digital development within one department, the Department of IT, authorised to improve IT procurement proactively across all areas in Moscow, with the mandate to establish cost-efficient IT procurement practices within the city.

The IT department was also tasked with ensuring the interoperability of various city systems, and leveraging the potential of big data in delivering insights that would drive decision making.

A smart city strategy called “Information City” was implemented in 2011 until the end of 2018, with a tri-lateral stakeholder approach driving interaction between government, business and citizens to formulate and implement smart city solutions.

The goals of Information City were to establish electronic services for citizens and businesses, to deliver smart municipal management services that would galvanise the city’s advertising and media sector, and to modernise its telecommunications infrastructure.

The city has invested more than $600-million every year since 2011 in achieving these objectives.

A Smart City Lab was created inside the IT Department in 2016 as a think tank of urban innovations responsible for sourcing prospective projects, technologies and companies that would meet Moscow’s biggest challenges in making the city more liveable.

The Smart City Lab also develops and tests tools that would improve the efficiency of the existing infrastructures. It serves as a conduit for smart and sustainable city idea generation within Moscow’s IT Department and engages in a wide-array of research, scanning, analysis and benchmarking activities.

The Lab also collaborates with different private, public and academic partners to gather and disseminate information on best practices and the latest developments in smart sustainable cities

The IT department is currently working to support the new “Smart Moscow 2030” strategy that is under development and will replace the Information City strategy after 2018. This new strategy will consolidate Moscow’s current efforts in making the city smarter and it will become the blueprint for creating a digital future for Muscovites.