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June 30, 2022

Ambassador Garber’s Remarks at the Logicom Smart Cities Conference

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Good morning Minister Kokkinos, Dr. Himonas, Mayor Yiorkadjis, and to our hosts, Logicom, thank you for organizing this conference.   

Ladies and gentlemen, we are at a crucial transition phase in Smart City history.  Over 4.2 billion people now live in cities and urban areas across the globe– a trend that accelerates every year.  The policies and decisions leaders make today will indelibly affect the future of our neighborhoods, our cities, and our countries for decades to come.  As we seek to ensure the prosperity of our communities, it is vital we always act with an eye to the future.  

Although the theory of a Smart City is not new, technology is rapidly transforming new ideas into reality.  Right now, Smart City systems are helping local and national governments improve public safety, modernize urban infrastructure, promote economic growth and ultimately provide a better quality of life for citizens worldwide.  As government and business leaders, we must provide the vision.  What kind of city do we want?  What benefits and services do our people need and want? 

As we continue to grapple with the consequences of climate change, Smart Cities offer tremendous potential towards building a cleaner, greener world.   According to a 2020 UN Development Programme report, over 70 percent of all emissions come from cities – be it from energy production, transportation, heating, or other sources.   

With Smart City technology we can expand our use of renewables while simultaneously reducing our energy demand.  Using integrated electricity metering with energy storage, it is possible to shift power on-demand throughout the grid.  Chicago is using a Smart Lighting system, combining LED lights with a wireless control system to operate them remotely as needed – improving energy efficiency and public safety.   

As a New Yorker, I love boasting about my city.  But one of its challenges is waste management.  New York installed smart trash cans that use solar powered-trash compactors to hold five times more waste and include sensors to detect when they need pickup.  This allows the city to schedule pick-up routes more efficiently, and reduces costs and emissions while keeping the city cleaner.   

To improve the flow of vehicles and reduce transportation emissions, Smart Traffic management incorporates predicted and actual traffic patterns into real-time traffic operations.  In San Francisco, Smart Parking directs drivers quickly and efficiently to the closest available spot, reducing emissions and traffic jams.  Distributed electric vehicle charging networks increase convenience for drivers of electric or hybrid vehicles, further incentivizing a shift away from high-emission transport.    

For governments across the globe, the advantages of these Smart systems are tangible and cost-effective.  Upgrading to Smart Technologies reduces costs for electricity, water, waste management, road maintenance, and even provision of government services, allowing leaders to redirect savings to improve education, health, and other services for their citizens.  

Ultimately, this is the underlying purpose of a government — the heart of the social contract – – to responsibly steward public funds to provide the best quality of life to citizens.   Smart Cities are an investment into the prosperity of people, but those decisions must happen now. 

Today’s emerging technology will be the backbone of our Smart Cities.  As the demand for interconnected watches, phones, traffic monitors, electricity meters, and other devices continues to rise, so too does the need for increased data and bandwidth.  

Legacy telecommunications infrastructure is not able to handle this increased demand. Instead, emerging 5G networks will be essential.  5G networks support vastly higher amounts of data, and vastly higher numbers of devices – all while providing faster information exchange.  

Such rapid innovation brings with it one of the great challenges of our time—cybersecurity.   With more personal data traveling faster and further around the world, it is paramount that governments and businesses act now to ensure it stays safe, out of the hands of malign actors.   

This concern must shape policy and investment decisions now more than ever. Already, we see the risks of compromised systems to international finance, global security cooperation, and personal safety. This is evidence that we must strengthen our defenses.  Our collective goals in climate sustainability, economic growth, and public safety depend on our transition to emerging technology – and we cannot do that successfully without a strong cybersecurity system.  

This brings us to the critical question of today—how do we build a Smart City while balancing these two priorities?  How do we encourage innovation while also assuring citizens that their trust in community 5G networks and other technological infrastructure is not misplaced?  

Our mobile telecommunications systems must be the foundation on which we build a strong cybersecurity defense.  Trust cannot exist where information and communications technology and services providers are subject to the interventions of an authoritarian government.  This means choosing telecommunications companies that operate under and answer to strong privacy protections, like those found in the European Union and the United States.   

As Cyprus and other countries look to build their Smart Cities, American companies are ready to partner with them.  We have a strong culture of innovation, a drive to invent and find new solutions to challenges.  Our own ecosystem of American Smart Cities is achieving incredible boons for our people, and our companies can bring those same benefits to Cyprus. 

I would like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to join you today.  I look forward to an exciting discussion of the breadth of possibilities Smart Cities and American trailblazers like Logicom bring to Cyprus.