About the Flagship

Launched in 2020, UN-Habitat’s flagship programme “People-Centered Smart Cities” acknowledges the transformative potential that digital technologies can have for sustainable urban development. Through the People-Centered Smart Cities flagship programme, UN-Habitat provides strategic and technical support on digital transformation to national, regional and local governments.

Digital transformation is now critical to meet the demands of sustainable urban development. In the past decade, internet connectivity has become a requisite for full participation in society, including access to education, affordable housing, and critical government services -- yet 3.7 billion people were offline in 2019.

In recent years, digital innovations like civic technology, geographic information systems, the sharing economy, open data, and digital platforms have changed how people understand, manage and participate in cities. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced even greater urgency for local and national governments alike to bridge the digital divide especially for marginalised groups and informal settlement communities, build more efficient and secure data management systems, and protect citizens’ privacy when using digital services. These activities are the foundation for inclusive and resilient smart cities.

Our work

The flagship programme “People-centered smart cities” ensures that deployment of technology and innovation is used to ensure sustainability, inclusivity, prosperity and human rights in cities. It supports national and local governments with their digital transition, applying a multi-level governance strategy to help build skills and capabilities to develop, procure and effectively use digital technologies in an ethical and inclusive way to make sure that no one is left behind. Our programme includes the first United Nations Innovation technology Accelerator for Cities in Hamburg (UNITAC-Hamburg), a digital rights governance framework for local and regional governments, the challenge-driven methodology and a broad range of initiatives in digital transformation and governance centred on people. 

Our experts

Katja Schäfer
Inter-Regional Advisor (a.i.)
Programme Development Branch, Global Solutions Division

Pontus Westerberg
Programme Management Officer
Innovation Section, External Relations, Strategy, Knowledge and Innovation Division


World Urban Forum 11

Location: Katowice, Poland
Transforming our Cities for a Better Urban Future

Highlighted publications

People-Centered Smart Cities
Technical Report
Sihanoukville for all: Promoting a Sustainable, Inclusive Smart City
Tools and Guidelines
Mixed reality for public participation in urban and public space design - Towards a new way of crowdsourcing more inclusive smart cities
UN-Habitat Innovation: Current projects, initiatives and partnerships
Country Report
Future Cities Advisory Outlook 2020: Urban Technologies in China
Tools and Guidelines
Innovation and digital technology to re-imagine Participatory Budgeting as a tool for building social resilience
Smart city Rwanda Master plan

News and Stories