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COBIT 5 Aids Transition to Smart and Sustainable Cities

By Graciela Braga, CGEIT, COBIT 5 Foundation, CSX Foundation

COBIT Focus | 24 July 2017

Graciela Braga A new edition of The Green Standards Week has finished, but the journey for cities has just begun.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), together with several organizations, including the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Inter-American Association of Telecommunication Enterprises (ASIET), have organized the 7th edition of the Green Standards Week from 3 to 5 April 2017 in Manizales, Colombia.1 The week was attended by more than 900 smart-city stakeholders, including mayors, policy makers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academia and industries from 27 countries. One of the significant outcomes of the event was the Manizales Manifesto (the Manifesto), which covers circular economy and smart sustainable cities and communities.2

Two important facts about the Green Standards Week are:

  • Forty percent of participants at the event were women. This is not just a random statistic. The data indicate that women are actively concerned about cities and communities. According to the Manifesto, “Information and communications technologies (ICTs), the concept of circular economy, and the environment for development and entrepreneurship, can help facilitate the sustainable use of resources, while promoting gender equity and fostering socioeconomic development through standardization.”3
  • Information technology is the core of smart sustainable cities (SSC). This is based on its international definition:
    • “A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses 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 as well as cultural aspects.”4

The Manifesto outlines 10 actions that must be taken by relevant stakeholders across the globe to help realize the Manifesto’s principles and developments.5

1. Set the Vision for an SSC

COBIT 5 enablers are examples of “governance and organizational mechanisms to facilitate the efficient implementation of smart city solutions” that allow the achievement of citizens’ objectives and underline and promote gender equality in order to maximize economic and social opportunities, while minimizing environmental footprint.”6 Based on the COBIT 5 framework approach to cascading overall goals and vision, stakeholder needs are identified and captured. Stakeholder needs can be related to a set of generic enterprise goals or generic goals of any initiative such as an SSC. These goals have been developed using the balanced scorecard (BSC) dimensions noted in COBIT 5, and they represent a list of commonly used goals that may be defined.7 A table of stakeholder needs and goal alignment is referenced in appendix D of the COBIT 5 framework.8

2. Identify the SSC Targets

The Manifesto mentions that “this may also include the development of a smart city master plan to catalyze the achievement of the targets of…the New Urban Agenda.”9 Many governance and management questions can be asked about IT to satisfy the New Urban Agenda’s principles and commitments based on COBIT 5 (figure 1).

Figure 1—ICT’s Potential to Help Address the New Urban Agenda’s Principles
Figure 1
Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Answers to these questions can easily help identify what parts of the COBIT 5 framework can be targeted as the most important goals to achieve the various Manifesto principles.

Areas in the COBIT 5 goals cascade that might assist with the Manifesto principles of leaving no one behind and sustainability may include the following enterprise goals, as illustrated in figure 2:

  • Managed business risk (safeguarding of assets)
  • Compliance with external laws and regulations
  • Business service continuity and availability
  • Agile responses to a changing business environment
  • Operational and staff productivity
  • Compliance with internal policies
  • Skilled and motivated people

Figure 2—Mapping COBIT 5 Enterprise Goals to IT-related Goals
Figure 2
View Large Graphic. Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

Based on the goals, primary and secondary areas of focus can be determined and aligned to BSC-grouped IT goals (figure 2).

3. Achieve Political Commitment at All Government Levels

It is also important to facilitate cross-sectoral decision making to improve the feasibility of smart city projects and maximize their outcomes. The essence of COBIT 5 is to consider different stakeholders with different interests. The involvement of government, regulators, society in general (including future societies), shareholders, business partners, customers, suppliers, consultants and auditors helps to plan an SSC. The COBIT 5 responsible, accountable, consulted and informed (RACI) chart (figure 3) helps suggest what processes can and should be performed by different functional levels and helps focus the participation of different groups.

Figure 3—COBIT 5 RACI Chart
Figure 3
Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

4. Transform an Information Society Into a Knowledge Society

To take advantage of the ICT revolution, it is necessary to reflect on the strengths and shortcomings of existing smart city initiatives and promote the adoption of a social vision. This is a crucial point: The use of ICTs has an undeniable human responsibility. ICTs have to deliver outcomes for people and not vice versa. Data have to be transformed into information and information into knowledge. Many ISACA publications explain how to do that. COBIT 5: Enabling Information provides direction on what type of data can and should be used by technology solutions to best support the development and use of quality information (figure 4).

Figure 4—Information Items Supporting IT-related Goals
Figure 4
Source: ISACA, COBIT 5: Enabling Information, USA, 2013

5. Bring the Circular Economy to Life in SSCs

Recycling; legal disposal of waste, particularly of electrical and electronic equipment; and use of green IT “will help reduce carbon emissions and the dependence on existing raw material resources.”10 The continuous path to achieving a high degree of maturity in the processes used to develop a governed SSC might be supported by incorporating principles of COBIT Process Assessment Model (PAM): Using COBIT 5, an approach to determine process capability to ensure the achievement of the desired state of optimal resource use (figure 5).

Figure 5—Overview of the COBIT Process Assessment Model (PAM)
Figure 5
Source: Adapted from ISO/IEC 15504-2:2003 with the permission of ISO at www.iso.org. Copyright remains with ISO.

6. Make Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things a Reality in Smart Cities

ISACA Journal, vol. 3 2017, is focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) and many articles explain the importance of this new reality and its benefits.

7. Build Data-driven Systems in SSCs

Data-driven systems will help embed the advances in technology and data collection to manage the growing data traffic from sensors, devices and other objects on the IoT network and impose the required trust, privacy and security for the benefit of consumers. ISACA Privacy Principles and Program Management Guide can help with this topic (figure 6). In fact, it explores privacy issues arising from new technologies including IoT, wearables, big data, mobile and other emerging areas and gives practical guidance on establishing and maintaining a privacy protection program.

Figure 6—The 7 Privacy Categories
Figure 6
Source: ISACA, Privacy Principles and Program Management Guide, USA, 2017

8. Create an SSC

This is done by upgrading the existing traditional urban infrastructure, deploying broadband networks and integrating the required ICT components and applications within appropriate smart city action plans for implementation. Processes and other enablers from COBIT 5 can help improve IT capability through better governance and management, change and improvement opportunities, and innovation. COBIT 5 for Risk enablers can help identify and prioritize those opportunities and risk factors to ensure the most critical initiatives are being addressed at the right time.

9. Measure Your Smart City Progress

This is done by implementing interoperable international standards for SSCs. ITU and ISACA have delivered detailed guidance that can be related to global standards to improve and leverage their combined implementation. COBIT 5 and integration with global standards (figure 7) allow seamless integration with existing approaches to maximize effort and best practice coverage.

Figure 7—COBIT 5 Coverage of Other Standards
Figure 7
Source: ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012

10. Shape the Global Agenda by Participating in the United 4 SSCs Initiative

It is an honor to volunteer for such a worthy initiative.11 Having the opportunity to discuss COBIT as a means to efficiently establish, govern and manage such a prestigious global effort is a great privilege.

SSCs, the New Urban Agenda, climate change adaptation, sustainability and so many other topics are stakeholders’ needs and nation/city/business requirements, but more than anything, they are human responsibilities.

A well-governed and managed ICT can ensure stakeholder identification, needs evaluation, city and ICT alignment, and ICT processes with the capacity to deliver outcomes, even if conditions are not the best.12

Graciela Braga, CGEIT, COBIT 5 Foundation, CSX Foundation

Is a certified professional in governance of enterprise IT (GEIT), oriented to the strategic alignment between business/government objectives and information and communication technology 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 (COSO) Internal Control—Integrated Framework and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 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 recent Green Standards Weeks, organized by ITU, the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT.


1 International Telecommunication Union, 7th Green Standard Week, 3-5 April 2017, Manizales, Colombia
2 The Manizales Manifesto, “Circular Economy and Smart Sustainable Cities & Communities,” adopted by the participants of the 7th Green Standards Week, Manizales, Colombia, 5 April 2017
3 Ibid. , p. 2
4 Ibid. , p. 1
5 Ibid. , p. 2-4
6 Ibid. , p. 2
7 ISACA, COBIT 5, USA, 2012, p. 18-19
8 Ibid., Appendix D: Stakeholder Needs and Ent erprise Goals, p. 55 - 56
9 Op cit The Manizales Manifesto, p. 2
10 Op cit The Manizales Manifesto, p. 3
11 International Telecommunication Union, United 4 Smart Sustainable Cities
12 Braga, G.; “The Time for Sustainable Business Is Now: Leveraging COBIT 5 in Sustainable Businesses,” ISACA Journal, vol. 3 2015