Mobilising digitalisation to serve environmental goals

Abstract: Human development is currently leading to destruction of the stability of the earth system upon which we depend for our survival. In other words, it is unsustainable. At the same time, urbanisation and digitalisation are progressing at a rapid pace. Digital technologies have a potential to decrease environmental impact from cities and urban lifestyles. Transport and mobility is an important part of urban life, and it has been suggested that digital technology can improve urban transport performance in both accessibility and sustainability. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a relatively new concept for provision of mobility services through a digital platform, sometimes together with digital accessibility services that lower the need to travel (Accessibility as a Service – AaaS). It has been suggested that MaaS could offer a real alternative to the privately owned car and lead to more sustainable mobility. However, its real effects in practice are still not well known.This thesis aims to create knowledge to guide public and private actors in developing digital technologies and using digitalisation to support environmental goals, especially regarding urban mobility. The results are structured around three parts. The first part explores strategies and digital services for municipalities that want to use digital technology to support environmental goals. The second part presents requirements for MaaS and AaaS to support environmental goals for urban mobility. To do so, they should reduce travelling overall and reduce environmental impact per kilometre travelled through enabling better modes of transport and lower vehicle emissions. It also suggests that a functional physical infrastructure for public transport and bicycling is important if MaaS are to support environmental goals. The third part identifies important knowledge gaps to explore, if digital services are to support environmental goals. The relationship between digital services, urban form, and sustainability implications is brought up as an important subject for future research, as well as how to ensure that MaaS fulfil the previously identified requirements.Finally, I discuss how to ensure that digital services and MaaS serve environmental goals. There are sometimes grave uncertainties regarding the real effects of various services. Although this makes future effects difficult to predict, it also suggests that investments need to be done strategically, and that data of effects need to be carefully collected and evaluated. Public and private actors both have responsibilities to ensure that digital services fulfil environmental goals. However, it is important not to only look at how to solve specific problems today. To support urban sustainability, we need to think about what kinds of cities we want. We do not have to focus digital services on streamlined, seamless and instant access to things no matter where they are. They can also support urban lifestyles of less focus on physical ownership and daily travelling, and more on positive experiences of sustainable modes of travel and of the local community.