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Sustainable Communities

The Internet of Things – from hype to reality

Prasanna Lal Das's picture
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Sensors in elevators that alert government agencies to public safety risks; data from school bags to keep children safe; garbage trucks with the smarts to save cities money… The Internet of Things (IoT) will change everything. That is the conventional wisdom. We set out to look for evidence of this change in the government. How fast is it coming? Is it real? And our findings were mixed – sobering, but also encouraging.

On the plus side, we found government agencies keen to apply IoT to improve their business environment or reduce the burden on businesses while simultaneously increasing compliance. On the downside, very few IoT initiatives have been scaled beyond pilots, the business models to sustain IoT infrastructure are under-developed, and the policy landscape is woefully inadequate. There’s significant potential but it requires systematic, informed work by the government, private sector, and civil society.

Helping Brazil realize its infrastructure promise

Paul Procee's picture


Photo: LWYang | Flickr Creative Commons

Since the 1980s, investment in Brazil’s infrastructure has declined from 5% to a little above 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), scarcely enough to cover depreciation and far below that of most middle-income countries (see figure below). The result is a substantial infrastructure gap. Over the same period, Brazil has struggled with stagnant productivity growth. The poor status of infrastructure is broadly believed to be a key reason for Brazil’s growth malaise.

Trinidad from space: using satellite imagery for better urban management

Ana I. Aguilera's picture
Foto aérea de Trinidad, Bolivia. / Banco Mundial.

The first time I heard of the Bolivian city of Trinidad was exactly 11 months ago. Although Trinidad is the 10th largest city in Bolivia, I confess I did not know much about it. The Ministry of Development Planning (MPD) had commissioned the World Bank a study on intermediate cities in Bolivia, and in my early research I learned that this was a colonial city founded in 1686 during Jesuitic Missions. Similar in its architecture and climate to the southeastern cities of my native Venezuela, Trinidad is extremely vulnerable to flooding that affect thousands of families and businesses each year.

Ranking the world’s megacities is a wake-up call for women’s rights

Monique Villa's picture
Cities are becoming monsters. Look at the world’s biggest megacities. 38 million people live in Tokyo! Try to take a taxi and find the house of a friend in Japan’s capital. You need luck. Six billion people will live in cities by 2045.

Cities are the new states; today, many of the world’s 31 megacities have larger populations and economies than individual nations.

For many people, these big urban centers represent the land of opportunity, offering better chances of employment, increased access to education and health services, social mobility.  For many others it’s a daily struggle for survival. In all big cities, the inequality between rich and poor has become gigantic and the divide seems only to grow.

We conducted a poll to investigate one aspect: how do women perceive their life in the world’s megacities? We chose women because they are the real economic accelerators, re-investing 90% of their salary into their families. When a woman thrives, her immediate community thrives with her.

Throughout June and July, we asked 380 gender experts in the 19 countries hosting the world’s biggest megacities to identify in which they thought women fared best and worst. The findings were eye-opening. They returned a truly compelling snapshot of the wider issues faced by women: from sexual violence, to security, to access to reproductive rights, from the risks of harmful cultural practices, to the lack of access to economic opportunities.

London was voted the world’s most female-friendly metropolis, thanks to its provision of free healthcare and access to economic resources such as education and financial services.  Tokyo and Paris came second and third.

But when we look at what concerned women most, the poll offers proper food for thought. In London, for example, experts cited the gender pay gap (a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR found on average, women earned £12,000 less than their male counterparts, while just 26% of director-led roles are filled by women as opposed to 74% by men) as well as extortionate childcare costs, as two of the major issues facing women today.
 

Project monitoring in fragile places does not have to be expensive

Andre Marie Taptue's picture



Conflict and violence are shrinking the space for development at a time when donors are scaling up their presence. To reconcile the conflicting objectives of staff safety with a need to do more (or a greater volume of investment), and doing it better (through higher quality projects), many development workers have started to rely on third party monitoring by outside agents, an approach that is costly and not always effective.
The case of Mali demonstrates that alternatives exist.

Less than a decade ago Bank staff could travel freely around in Mali, even to the most remote communities in the country. But today, a mix of terrorism and armed violence renders field supervision of projects impossible in many locations.

To address this challenge—and in the wake of the 2013/14 security crisis in northern Mali—a monitoring system was designed that is light, low cost, and suited for monitoring in insecure areas, but also problem oriented and able to facilitate improvements in project implementation.

Can blockchain help us better assist refugees and migrants in transit? Innovative Financing for Development

Kristina Mikulova's picture
Technology can both empower and disempower. At a recent workshop on blockchain, we landed a challenge: how can we use it to facilitate refugee integration?

I am an immediate misfit in the dynamic multiverse of people speaking in code. But at this USAID event led by the UNDP Alternative Finance Lab and AID:Tech, I wasn’t the only one.

Pipeline to Work: Including persons with disabilities in skills development and employment projects

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC
Photo: Dane Macri/The Advocacy Project via Flickr CC.

The relationship between poverty and disability goes both ways: disability increases the risk of poverty, and the conditions of poverty increase the risk of disability.

Yet, little attention has been given to the employment readiness of persons with disabilities. This is of concern given that the employment rates of persons with disabilities are a third to half of the rates for persons without disabilities, with unemployment rates as high as 80%-90% in some countries.

[Learn more: Disability Inclusion]

Disability is a complex, evolving, and multidimensional concept. Currently, it is estimated that 15% of the world population experiences some form of disability, with prevalence rates higher in developing countries. As opportunities for sustainable income generation are directly tied to a person’s access to finance, markets, and networks, persons with disabilities usually face significant challenges in accessing these, due to:

  • non-inclusive regulations and policy,
  • lack of resource allocation,
  • stigma and societal prejudice,
  • low educational participation, and
  • inability to access their own communities and city spaces.
To continue building inclusive cities, research tells us that countries cannot achieve optimal growth by leaving behind a large group of their citizens – persons with disabilities – with economic losses from employment exclusion ranging from 3 to 7 % of the GDP. We also know that when you combine gender and disability, the challenges facing women with disabilities compound. Women with disabilities are more likely to earn less than men with disabilities and they are affected by inaccessible sanitation, smaller social and professional networks, and gender-based violence – see, for example, labor force data from the UK.

We need to do much more to ensure that women with disabilities are mainstreamed into projects that seek to empower women as entrepreneurs and change agents.

Expanding equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities is at the core of the World Bank’s work to build sustainable and inclusive communities. So, what might a disability-responsive moonshot look like for development projects addressing work for persons with disabilities? Here’s what we’re doing at the World Bank:

Campaign Art: What Does Freedom for Girls Mean to You?

Sari P.S Dallal's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

October 11 has been marked as the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations since 2012. The aims are to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

For this year’s Day of the Girl, the #FreedomForGirls campaign was launched in partnership between Project Everyone, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This campaign sheds further light on the United Nations’ Global Goals, which included a commitment to achieve gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. The UN along with its agencies and programs, believe that none of the 17 goals can be realized without empowering the largest generation of adolescent girls the world has ever seen.

Freedom - International Day of the Girl

Back to school? Expanding access to disaster-resilient schools in Turkey for Syrian children and host communities

Johannes Zutt's picture


Today, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other single country—almost 3.3 million. The vast majority are fleeing the civil war in Syria, and almost half are under the age of 18. A devastating consequence of the children’s flight is the disruption of their education, with about one in four Syrian refugee children in Turkey—mostly in urban areas in southeastern and southern provinces—not in school.  Even so, due to tremendous efforts by the government of Turkey, about six in ten school-aged Syrian children now have access to either formal education facilities or temporary education centers in Turkey—a remarkable achievement, given the scale of the need and the rapidity with which it developed.

By the end of 2017, the Government aims to achieve full educational enrollment for all Syrian children.

These winning photos capture the future of sustainable cities

Xueman Wang's picture
The premise behind the Sustainable Cities photo competition was simple. We wanted to learn what people around the world “see” when they hear the words “sustainable cities.”
 
The submissions – and we at the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities received more than 90 entries from over 40 countries around the world – are very revealing.

What the photographers tried to communicate was a need: both the urgent need for infrastructure that leads to more resilient, sustainable cities, or a need to aspire to greener ideals of building sustainable communities for all.

There is no better day than today, World Cities Day, for us to share with you the 10 finalists – including 3 winners and an honorable mention for climate action – of the photo competition.

In the winning photo by Yanick Folly, one can practically feel the chaos of a city in Benin, the smell of exhaust fumes as cars crawl up alongside motorcycles and pedestrians down narrow alleyways.

Yanick Folly (Benin) – Winner
Growing day by day, our world is always moving. Just see the big vibrant Benin market. #SustainableCities

The photo is also a reminder that cities are made of people. Any set of solutions for “sustainable cities” will have to make sense to a city’s inhabitants, who tread its streets daily.
 
In other photos, the aspiration is palpable. 

Many of the photographers are nationals of developing countries from all over the world. Yet quite a few of them shared photos of cities we regard as environmentally friendly: Singapore, Amsterdam, London, and Paris... We saw many photos of parks in developed countries, and heard the same message: These green spaces and pedestrian walkways are what we want in a city.
 
Adedapo Adesemowo (UK / Nigeria)

From a waste dumping ground for oil, tar, arsenic, and lead to an Olympic park. #SustainableCities
Many photos also reflect the vast difference between the aspirational city, and what most people actually live with.
 
We received photos of what many of us may categorize as rural areas, but we should reconsider these preconceptions: some “cities” in developing countries are little more than makeshift towns.
 
So, it is all the more reason why we are excited about this winning photo by Oyewolo Eyitayo from Nigeria. You might think this is an uneventful photograph of a typical urban suburb. Except that the half dirt roads are lined with solar panels.
 
Oyelowo Eyitayo (Nigeria) – Winner
Going solar is a simple & impactful #climateaction that can help combat climate change. #SustainableCities

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