Easy Rider South Korea Uses Web Technology to Boost Public Transit Use Seoul Smart Transportation Program

Finding green IT projects in U.S. government or abroad that reach beyond rote "environmentally friendly" talking points is difficult. More often, green IT initiatives focus on reducing hardware's electricity consumption to cut costs -- and being green is a secondary goal.

A prime example is data center consolidation, which currently is the largest green agenda item for state and local IT departments. Consolidation modernizes equipment, saves money and slashes energy usage. The latter outcome just so happens to reduce government's carbon footprint -- the measure of human-caused carbon emissions, which most scientists say is a contributor to climate change. But it begs the question: Does government IT have a green role to play beyond energy-efficient hardware?

We may find out in roughly nine months. That's when Seoul, South Korea, should be able to report conclusively on the progress and success of its Smart Transportation Program, said Simon Willis, senior director of the Global Public Sector Internet Business Solutions Group for Cisco Systems Inc. (No English-speaking city representatives from Seoul were available to be interviewed for this story.) The transportation program aims to increase public transit ridership with flexible, distance-based fares and Web-based technology for determining public transit routes from any city location.

Seoul is one of seven cities enlisted in Connected Urban Development (CUD), a partnership with Cisco that commits those cities to creating IT projects that cut carbon emissions by reducing traffic congestion. The six other cities are Amsterdam, Netherlands; Birmingham, England; Madrid, Spain; Hamburg, Germany; Lisbon, Portugal; and San Francisco. Many of the cities plan to use IT to make public transportation more attractive to citizens, and Seoul's project is the furthest along, Willis said. American metropolises tangled by traffic difficulties would be wise to keep an eye on Seoul's progress.

The project is moving from the planning stage to execution, according to Cisco. "It's pretty early in the project," Willis said. "This is cutting-edge stuff."

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Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.