Transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation

Transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation

Yung Wu, per this contribution of his holds that transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation are of vital importance especially in the MENA region whilst:

Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

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Yung Wu is CEO of MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto-based innovation hub.

From Toronto to Tokyo, the challenges faced by cities today are often remarkably similar: climate change, rising housing costs, traffic, economic polarization, unemployment. To tackle these problems, new technology companies and industries have been sprouting and scaling up with innovative digital solutions like ride sharing and home sharing. Without a doubt, the city of the future must be digital. It must be smart. It must work for everyone.

This is a trend civic leaders everywhere need to embrace wholeheartedly. But building a truly operational smart city is going to take a village, and then some. It won’t happen overnight, but progress is already under way.

As tech broadens its urban footprint, there will be more and more potential for conflict between innovation and citizen priorities like privacy and inclusive growth. Last month, we were reminded of that in Toronto, where planning authorities from three levels of government released a 1,500-page plan by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs meant to pave the way for a futuristic waterfront development. Months in the making, the plan met with considerably less than universal acclaim.

But whether it’s with Sidewalk or other tech partners, the imperative to resolve these conflicts becomes even stronger for cities like Toronto. If they’re playing this game to win, civic leaders need to minimize the damage and maximize the benefits for the people they represent. They need to develop co-ordinated innovation plans that prioritize transparency, public engagement, data privacy and collaboration.

Transparency

The Sidewalk Labs  plan is full of tech-forward proposals for new transit, green buildings and affordable housing, optimized by sensors, algorithms and mountains of data. But even the best intentions of a business or a city can be misconstrued when leaders fail to be transparent about their plans. Openness and engagement are critical for building legitimacy and social license.

Sidewalk says it consulted 21,000 Toronto citizens while developing its proposal. But some critics have already complained that the big decisions were made behind closed doors, with too many public platitudes and not enough debate about issues raised by citizens, city staff and the region’s already thriving innovation ecosystem.

In defense of Sidewalk Labs and Alphabet,  their roots are in Internet services. They are relative newcomers to the give and take of community consultation. But they are definitely now hearing how citizens would prefer to be engaged and consulted.

As for the public planners, they have a number of excellent examples to draw from. In Barcelona, for example, the city government opened up its data sets to citizens to encourage shared use among private, public and academic sectors. And in Pittsburgh, which has become a hub for the testing of autonomous vehicles, the city provided open forum opportunities for the public to raise questions, concerns and issues directly with civic decision-makers.

Other forward-looking cities, such as San Francisco, Singapore, Helsinki and Glasgow, are already using digital technology and smart sensors to build futuristic urban services that can serve as real-world case studies for Toronto and others. However, to achieve true success, city officials need to earn residents’ trust and confidence that they are following and adapting best practices.

Toronto skyline courtesy of Shutterstock/Niloo

Data privacy

Access to shared data is crucial to informing and improving tech-enabled urban innovation. But it could also fuel a technologically driven move toward surveillance capitalism or a surveillance state – profiteering or big brother instead of trust and security.

The Sidewalk proposal respects the principles of responsible use of data and artificial intelligence. It outlines principles for guiding the smart-city project’s ethical handling of citizen data and secure use of emerging technologies like facial recognition. But these principles aren’t yet accompanied by clear, enforceable standards.

Members of the MaRS Discovery District  recently co-authored an open-source report with fellow design and data governance experts, outlining how privacy conflicts could be addressed by an ethical digital trust. A digital trust ought to be transparently governed by independent, representative third-party trustees. Its trustees should be mandated to make data-use decisions in the public interest: how data could be gathered, how anonymity could be ensured, how requests for use should be dealt with.

They come with big questions to be resolved. But if a digital trust were developed for the Sidewalk project, it could be adapted and reused in other cities around the world, as civic leaders everywhere grapple with innovation plans of their own.

PCs on a grid in front of a city skyline.
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Colin Anderson

Collaboration

The private sector creates jobs and economic growth. Academia and education offers ideas, research and a sustainable flow of tech-savvy workers. The public sector provide policy guidance and accountability. Non-profits mobilize public awareness and surplus capital.

As Toronto is learning, it isn’t always easy to get buy-in, because every player in every sector has its own priorities. But civic leaders should be trying to pull all these innovation levers to overcome urban challenges, because when the mission is right, collaboration creates more than the sum of its parts.

One civic example we like to point to is New York, where the development of the High Line park and the rezoning of the West Chelsea Special District created a “halo effect.” A $260-million investment increased property values, boosted city tax revenues by $900-million and brought four million tourists per year to a formerly underused neighborhood.

A mission-oriented innovation ecosystem connects the dots between entrepreneurs and customers, academia and corporates, capital and talent, policymakers and activists, physical and digital infrastructure – and systems financing models can help us predict and more equitably distribute the returns. Organizations like Civic Capital Lab (disclaimer: a MaRS partner) work to repurpose projects like the High Line into real-life frameworks for other cities and communities.

That kind of planning works because the challenges cities face are so similar. When civic leaders are properly prepared to make the best of modern tech-driven innovation, there’s no problem they can’t overcome.

More posts of Yung Wu :

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Food supply chains will get disrupted globally

Food supply chains will get disrupted globally

As Climate change could cause 29% spike in cereal prices: leaked UN report, because Food supply chains will get disrupted globally, the study warns. Report to be officially released in August informs Nitin Sethi, of New Delhi in this article of Business Standard.

As far as the MENA region is concerned, food has always been in short supply, but does this mean it would get worse.

FAO estimates higher cereal output

The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8. Photo: Representative Image

“The rate and geographic extent of global land and freshwater resources over recent decades is unprecedented in human history,” a report authored by UN’s panel of scientists from across the world on climate change is set to inform. Business Standard reviewed a leaked copy of the draft report sent to the governments of 197 countries. The report warns that as the global temperatures rise, the stress on land resources and its productivity is set to rise.

The report by the UN Inter-governmental panel on climate change, is called, “IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”

The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8.

The authors of the report, gleaning through state-of-art science research have concluded that, “Observed climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization, and stability – through increased temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”

Continuing climate change is expected to further “create additional stresses on land systems exacerbating risks related to desertification, land degradation and food security,” the report says.

In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2° Celsius, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. Scientists conclude that at current levels of greenhouse gas emission reductions committed by the countries under Paris Agreement there is a good likelihood for the planet to breach the 2° Celsius temperature rise barrier.

“In drylands, desertification and climate change are projected to cause further reduction in crop and livestock productivity, modify the composition of plant species and reduce biological diversity,” research endorsed by the scientific panel shows.

Half of the vulnerable population due to the climate-change induced aridity would be in South Asia. The degradation of land due to climate change is already leading to consequent shaving off of the global economy, the scientific panel notes. “There are increasingly negative effects on GDP from impacts on land-based values and ecosystem service as temperature increases,” the report says. But, it notes that, at the regional level, the impacts would vary. “Compound extreme events, such as a heat wave within a drought or drought followed by extreme rainfall, will decrease gross primary productivity of lands, the authors warn

The impact on agriculture in higher latitudes is recorded to be different than in lower ones, such as one covering India. “Increasing temperature are affecting agricultural productivity in higher latitudes, raising yields of some crops such as maize, cotton, wheat, sugar beets, while in lower-latitude regions yields of crops such as maize, wheat and barley are declining.

Modelling results, that the scientific panel reviewed, show that cereal prices could rise by up to 29 per cent in 2050 due to climate change, which would impact consumers globally through higher food prices, though the impact would vary by regions. The stability of food supply is expected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme events caused by climate change increases, disrupting food chains globally.

The increase in global temperatures and consequent climate change is already affecting the productivity of livestock, which is one a main-stay of Indian rural economy. The authors conclude, “Observed impacts in pastoral systems include pasture declines, lower animal growth rates and productivity, damaged reproductive functions, increased pests and diseases, and loss of biodiversity.”

At the same time coastal economies are already suffering an impact as well. “Coastal erosion is affecting new regions as a result of interacting human drivers and climate change such as sea-level rise and impacts of changing cyclone paths,” though the scientists hold a low level confidence in the scientific research that concludes the impact of climate change on cyclone paths.

Read more :

The solution to the problems Cairo faces

The solution to the problems Cairo faces

A plethora of investments ranging from the expansion of the Suez Canal to the construction of a new city might not be the solution to the problems Cairo faces wondered a certain Eleonora Vio a year ago, in her articled query titled: Can Sissi turn around Egypt’s economy with mega projects?

Apart from its hopes for a democratic future, could this article of Trade Arabia be an answer?

Megaprojects ‘driving Cairo office space demand’

The real estate market in Egypt’s capital Cairo continues its rapid growth with the construction of large-scale projects stimulating economic expansion and driving demand for Grade A office projects, according to Savills, a leading real estate services provider in the Middle East.

There is a systematic shift of tenants towards newer developments away from the erstwhile central business hubs in Central Cairo, towards modern speculative and purpose-built developments across New Cairo in the East and Sheikh Zayed City in the West, stated Savills in its latest report that analyses the Cairo Metropolitan Area (CMA) office market for the first half.

Demand is also driven by new market entrants – both domestic and global – along with expansion and consolidation exercise, it stated.

The city’s strong demographic vantage in terms of young, educated and comparatively low-cost workforce and a further improvement in global investor confidence towards the economy in the medium-to-long term will continue to drive demand for office real estate in the city, it added.        

Head of Egypt Catesby Langer-Paget said: “As Egypt’s macro-economic situation continues to improve on account of prudent policy measures, our recent research shows that the demand for office space in Cairo has increased, driven by a mix of relocation, expansion and expansion led consolidation exercise.”

The sustained demand for office space has led to a spurt in project launches and completions over the past few quarters. This increase in the availability of Grade A options has created a short-to-medium term pressure on rental values across most markets.

However, headline rental values continue to remain stable but we have noticed enhanced flexibility among landlords with regards to incentives and lease terms. During H1 2019, rents for Grade A stock across Heliopolis ranged between E£300 – E£350 / sqm / month while in New Cairo and Sheikh Zayed City it ranged between E£350 – 400 / sqm / month.

“We noticed strong interest from the pharmaceutical sector, technology, banking and financial services and media firms to occupy Grade A space within the city,” stated Langer-Paget.
 
“In terms of new supply, no new projects were completed during the current review period. However, to meet this growing demand, we anticipate approximatively 155,500 sqm of Grade A space to be handed over across key areas such as New Cairo and Nasr City over the next six months,” he added.

TradeArabia News Service

12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA

12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA

UAE identifies 12 priorities for sustainable urbanization in MENA posted by Saudi Gazette on June 1, 2019, is worthwhile going through to get to know what is meant by the MENA would perhaps be more specific and therefore more relevant to the Gulf area than to the rest of the MENA region.

Delegates at the UN-Habitat assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 27-30

ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates has successfully delivered its central objectives for the first UN-Habitat assembly in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on May 27-30 and convened all UN Member States, as the world’s highest-level decision-making body on sustainable urbanization.

A delegation headed by Mohamed Al Khadar, Executive Director Strategic Affairs of the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities (DPM), outlined 12 priorities identified for sustainable urbanization in the MENA region to United Nations Member States. These priorities were crowdsourced from the recent Pan-Arab Urban Development Symposium (PAUDS) held in Abu Dhabi. Classified in three categories corresponding to each of the four pillars – Economy, Environment, Society and Culture, these will form the basis for the UAE program at the 10th World Urban Forum (WUF10), which will be conducted in Abu Dhabi in February 2020.

Al Khadar said “the UN-Habitat Assembly provided a unique opportunity for Abu Dhabi to advance the UAE’s agenda for the upcoming World Urban Forum. Through our work at this event, we aimed to underpin WUF10’s goal to be an open platform for partnerships and new initiatives in representation of our best minds. To advance to more sustainable urban models we are convinced that we need to identify new ways of working together, breaking down silo mindsets, and promoting transformative working methods. What better way to do that than to open up the conversation to fresh and creative thinking as we did at PAUDS, and we are happy to have continued this momentum with the brilliant collection of minds at UN-Habitat.”

Also carried out was a reception event which promoted WUF2020 within UN Family and Ambassadors. This included a gala dinner and outlined WUF10 in greater detail to interested delegates.

The UAE Ambassador to Kenya Khalid Khalifa Abdullah Rashid Al Mu’alla said “the UAE global leadership in international diplomacy finds its manifestation in the implementation of the 2030 agenda and our success in leading global implementation of SDGs and assisting others in doing so. WUF10 is an opportunity for the UAE to develop methodologies that can be shared and replicated in other countries in the region”.

The UN-Habitat Assembly carried the theme ‘Innovation for a Better Quality of Life in Cities and Communities – Accelerated Implementation of the New Urban Agenda towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals’. The event will bring together urban practitioners and experts, national, regional and local governments, academia, civil society and the private sector. All are brought together with a shared focus on innovative urbanization and to provide solutions for a better quality of life in cities and communities.

The UN-Habitat Assembly is the United Nations’ focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements development. This event will adopt global norms and policies that will guide how cities and communities are planned, managed and governed. It will also determine the strategic priorities for accelerating implementation of the New Urban Agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for the next six years, through UN-Habitat’s Strategic Plan (2020-2025).

WUF10 will take place in Abu Dhabi in February 2020, convened by UN-Habitat and jointly organized with the Abu Dhabi Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities. The Forum will provide a platform to discuss 21st century city planning within a context of rapid development with specific cultural and demographic considerations. WUF10 will showcase the Abu Dhabi Plan, through which the city aims to realize its long-term sustainable development vision. This blueprint will advance concrete achievements that position the Emirate as a benchmark, in a region with one of the fastest urbanization rates on the globe.

Established in 2001, WUF is the world’s premier gathering on urban issues. The Forum examines the impact of rapid urbanization and its implications for social, economic and environmental policies in communities, cities and towns. — SG

Life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, now normal

Life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, now normal

As blast walls come down, Baghdad life edges towards normality

ByMaher Nazeh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – With the blast walls finally gone, some 16 years after the U.S.-led invasion, life in the Iraqi capital Baghdad is starting to look like any normal bustling city.

A general view of cars at the Al-Shurja Market in Baghdad, Iraq April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

Families and friends hang out in cafes and shopping malls, people hold birthday parties in public and traders ply their wares from roadside stalls.

Saif Ahmed, an owner of a cafe in the upscale district of Zayyona in eastern Baghdad, said the removal of miles of the concrete walls from the streets had encouraged families to visit malls and cafes and stay until late into the night.

“Baghdad is looking different now, for the better. Families are staying until after midnight in markets, restaurants and cafes. I feel so happy to see Baghdad life is returning to normal,” he said.

The walls, put up a year after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, served to protect the city from years of sectarian civil war and the fight against Islamic State militants. Iraq declared victory over the group in late 2017.

Senior military commanders say there have been no attacks by insurgents for more than a year.


“Baghdad is enjoying considerable security. We managed to keep terrorists away from the capital,” said Lieutenant General Jaleel al-Rubaie, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command.

Soon after he came to power late last year, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered the removal of the towering walls to signal the improvement in security – letting light back into long obscured parts of the city.

For Hutham al-Ansary, who lost her husband in the violence in 2004, the feeling that Baghdad is finally safe brings tears of happiness.

“Baghdad is beautiful, despite all tragedies, with this improved security and peace. I still have a bitter feeling about the past but today is better than yesterday,” said Ansary, a women’s rights activist, with her two daughters at one of Baghdad’s parks.

Many people are now more comfortable about spending time outdoors.

“I’m happy that finally I can celebrate my son’s birthday in a public garden, something we were not brave enough to do fearing bombs,” Sally Adnan, a Health Ministry employee, said at Abu Nawas Gardens by the Tigris river.


“Life in Baghdad is more interesting now,” said Adnan, who was wounded in a car bomb in 2008.

“The wounds on my face are part of Iraq’s history. I’m keeping them to show my sons when they grow up,” she said.

Reporting by Maher Nazeh; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Alison Williams

Reuters Statndards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Three ways cities can help feed the world . . .

Three ways cities can help feed the world . . .

In effect, three ways cities can help feed the world . . . without costing the Earth, per Silvio Caputo, University of Kent seem to be one of the few options remaining for life on earth to carry on.

Climate change is underway, and human activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation and food production are key contributors. Food production alone accounts for around 25% of global carbon emissions. Ironically, the changing weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather events resulting from climate change also put the world’s food supplies at risk.

Food production drives deforestation, meaning there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. What’s more, the fertilisers and pesticides used to protect crops have caused a dramatic decline in insect populations, and in soil fertility, by affecting the microbial organisms that enrich the soil and enable plants to gain nutrients.

At the same time, the world population is rising and there are expected to be more than 9.5 billion people on Earth by 2050. In response to these projections, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is campaigning for a 60% increase in food production by 2050, by intensifying agriculture to be more productive and use fewer resources, all without increasing the amount of farm land.

It’s not yet clear exactly how this “intensification” should happen. Alternative methods, such as organic farming, are respectful of soil ecology and insect life and can restore soil fertility. But they cannot, at present, produce as much food as industrial agriculture.

Organic produce: delicious, but not yet scalable. Shutterstock.

Yet the idea that we need more food is debatable. Although, according to the FAO, there are 821m people globally suffering from hunger, the world produces 50% more food than is needed to feed the global population. Another estimate from biologist and author Colin Tudge suggests that the current food production can feed as many as 14 billion people. But one third of this food is wasted because of distorted supply systems, unjust food distribution and unhealthy and unsustainable diets.

So, the efforts of experts in the food sector should not concentrate on agriculture intensification, but rather on strategies to change patterns of consumption and waste at a local and global level. My own research on urban agriculture and sustainable cities suggests there are three main areas where effective changes can be made.

1. Recycling food waste

Food consumption needs to become “circular”. This means that organic waste such as food scraps does not go to landfill, but is instead transformed into compost (which will be needed in a transition to organic agriculture) and biogas.


Read more:
Ugly veg: supermarkets aren’t the biggest food wasters – you are


At present, organic waste is only recycled to a small extent, with some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands leading, while others including Italy and Belgium lag behind. But there are new technologies emerging to make this process easier.

Waste not… Shutterstock.

For example, the Local Energy Adventure Partnership (LEAP) has created an anaerobic digester designed for an urban context: this machine can transform organic waste from residential or commercial buildings into compost and biogas that can fuel urban food growing.

Some experts also suggest that some food waste – if treated properly – could be used as animal fodder: a practice currently forbidden on hygiene grounds. If reinstated, this measure could reduce the environmental impact of grain cultivation, as less is grown to feed livestock.

2. Urban farming

Another option is to decrease demand for agricultural land by growing food in cities, where more people need it, thereby reducing the distances food has to travel. This would also allow producers to map and match consumers’ demand more effectively, by producing close to the places where food is consumed.

Vertical farming: on the up. Shutterstock.

There is a lot of research on urban agriculture and how cities can support it, spanning from vertical farms – hydroponic systems enabling cultivation on vertical surfaces – to principles for planning cities that facilitate the use of land, rooftops and other spaces to grow food into a continuous green infrastructure.


Read more:
How urban farmers are learning to grow food without soil or natural light


In this area, too, it’s possible to find innovations designed to make urban farming easier and more sustainable. For example, The Farmhouse is a modular housing system suitable for vertical stacking that enables all residents to grow food. And Blockchain Domes is a patented system that uses excess heat from computer servers to provide optimal thermal conditions for greenhouses in colder climates.

3. Changing diets

The third option is to encourage people to change their diets. Growing middle-income groups in developing countries are consuming ever higher quantities of meat, cheese and eggs. In China, since 1990, consumption of beef and poultry has quadrupled. But the diet of farmed animals is heavy in grains, which instead could be used to feed people more efficiently. Also, cattle farming requires vast quantities of water and grassland, sometimes obtained through deforestation.

Getting people to eat less meat will help to ease the pressure on the world’s food system. In cities, governments, research institutions, communities and businesses can collaborate on food initiatives to give people healthier, cheaper and more sustainable choices – but this requires political will and organisation between different levels of government.


Read more:
Bug burgers, anyone? Why we’re opening the UK’s first insect restaurant


Clearly, each of these approaches has a limited scope of action, compared to agricultural techniques or strategies which can be deployed at an industrial level. But with so many promising proposals, there can be a many-pronged approach that that makes efficient use of the existing resources in cities, while also changing consumers’ habits. Together with these three changes, more effective policies for food justice and sovereignty can establish fairer food supply chains and more just distribution of food around the world.The Conversation

Silvio Caputo, Senior Lecturer, University of Kent

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
The Conversation