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Board Support Can Revolutionize Cities. COBIT 5 Can Help Attain It

By Graciela Braga, CGEIT, COBIT 5, CSXF, CPA

COBIT Focus | 12 November 2018

Most people, including many readers of this article, live in cities. Revolutionizing cities may seem like it is not an IT or technical issue, but smart sustainable cities are important for IT professionals. Why is revolutionizing cities relevant to IT communities and society as a whole? Because information technology has been and can be a strategic resource not only to transform a city into a smart city or a smart sustainable city, but also to transform citizens’ lives.

As the body responsible for city IT governance, the city board must include this new model as part of the city’s context and the stakeholders’ needs. But the city board is a stakeholder, too. It needs adequate information about the extent to which IT can help to achieve city goals to support its governance activities of evaluating, setting direction and monitoring. So, goals and metrics for IT in the unique city context are required. This need can be satisfied by selecting, connecting and aligning goals and metrics from COBIT 5 and other relevant publications and producing a single, useful matrix of IT-related goals for smart sustainable cities.

Defining Cities, Smart Cities and Smart Sustainable Cities

A city is defined as an urban geographical area with one (or several) local government and planning authorities.1

A smart sustainable city (SSC) is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation, and services and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects.2

A smart city applies the new generation of information technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, big data and space/geographical information integration, to facilitate the planning, construction, management and smart services of the city.3

A city’s stakeholders are city inhabitants, government and regulators, the private sector, IT manufacturers and vendors, the international and national investment community, and other cities and nations and their boards and executive managers.

Customizing COBIT 5’s IT-Related Goals and Metrics for Smart Sustainable Cities

The COBIT 5 goals cascade is the mechanism to translate stakeholder needs into specific, actionable and customized organizational goals, IT-related goals and enabler goals.4 It also includes a list of sample metrics for each IT-related goal. Boards and executive managers should review the list, decide on relevant and achievable metrics for their own environments, and design their own scorecard systems.5

Cities establish their goals and metrics with different parameters. For example, according to the United Nations Habitat’s City Prosperity Index, there are 5 dimensions of prosperity that could be considered: productivity, infrastructure development, quality of life, equity and social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.6

Like ISACA and COBIT 5, some important international organizations considered it desirable for cities to be able to quantify their achievement according to their goals and have published very useful publications.

Some metrics are the same for cities as they are for businesses and can, therefore, be taken from COBIT 5.

It is worthwhile to try to connect and merge these different resources to obtain a list of IT-related goals and metrics for SSCs, considering the balanced scorecard (BSC)7 dimension as COBIT 5 does. Some metrics are the same for cities as they are for businesses and can, therefore, be taken from COBIT 5. In other cases, a broader or different perspective is required because SSCs include social, economic and environmental aspects.

By connecting and integrating COBIT 5 with these different resources, a sample version of COBIT 5’s IT-related goals for smart sustainable cities can be obtained.

Editor’s Note

This article is excerpted from an article that was published as an ISACA Journal online exclusive. Read Graciela Braga’s full Journal article, “Using COBIT 5 to Get and Give Board Support for Revolutionizing Cities,” available online.

Graciela Braga, CGEIT, COBIT 5, CSXF, CPA

Is a certified professional in the governance of enterprise IT (GEIT), oriented to the strategic alignment between business/government objectives and information and communication technology (ICT), including sustainability and green IT. She has worked on audits and reviews for public and private entities using international frameworks such as COBIT, Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and International Organization for Standardization standards. She is an author and researcher on management and governance of information and ICT in various media, including the ISACA Journal and COBIT Focus. Braga has also been a speaker at Green Standards Weeks organized by the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, and a contributor to the publication “Implementing SDG11 by Connecting Sustainability Policies and Urban Planning Practices Through ICTs,” developed within the framework of the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative.


1 International Telecommunication Union, “Overview of Key Performance Indicators in Smart Sustainable Cities,” ITU-T Recommendations, Rec.ITU-T Y.4900/L.1600 (06/2016)
2 Ibid.
3 International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), “Smart Cities, Preliminary Report 2014,” ISO/IEC JTC 1, 2015
4 ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012,
5 ISACA, COBIT 5: Enabling Processes, USA, 2012
6 International Telecommunication Union, “Key Performance Indicators Related to the Use of Information and Communication Technology in Smart Sustainable Cities,” ITU-T Recommendations, Rec. ITU-T Y.4901/ L.1601 (06/2016)
7 Kaplan, R.; D. Norton; The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy Into Action, Harvard University Press, USA, 1996