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Smart Cities: How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions

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FIOR Reports post By Becca Roberts on Smart Cities as to How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions could be made good use of in several of the MENA region’s broken and/or stagnating countries.

Smart Cities: How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions

The above image is of Part of the new Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was built as part of extensive redevelopment efforts on the former Soviet territory. Image: Bojan Stojkovski / ZDNet


For more than three decades, the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has been at the center of much disagreement between the neighboring Caucasian states of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The city of Agdam once had a population of 30,000 but was hit hard by the conflict. Now it’s a ghost town.

Since it began in 1988, the conflict over the region has also produced more than a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Now as Azerbaijan seeks to gradually rebuild the country hit by the struggle, authorities hope technology can play a central role in encouraging citizens to return to the region by creating smart cities and villages that offer better ways of life encourage.

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According to Anar Valiyev, urban planning expert and associate professor at ADA University in Baku, building new communities supported by digital amenities will make the region more attractive not only to returnees but also to those who have stayed in the region Conflict.

The first planning phase is followed by a pilot project in which a number of “smart villages” – referred to as Aghaly-1, Aghaly-2 and Aghaly-3 – are being built in the Zangilan region of Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 200 houses are being built here from innovative building materials such as recycled steel and precast concrete and connected to intelligent electricity, gas and waste disposal companies.

“Alternative energy sources are used for all residential buildings, social facilities, office buildings, restaurants, processing and production of agricultural products.”

Bridging a digital divide

Building new, digitally supported communities will also serve to bridge the gap between the Azerbaijani capital Baku and other urban and rural areas.

Such projects could also entice young Azerbaijanis to move to the Nagorno-Karabakh region in search of new opportunities. Eldar Hamza, 26, is one of them.

During the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Hamza’s family was evicted from the town of Fizouli, which had a population of around 17,000 before the war but became a ghost town after they escaped.

“I also believe that most of them will return to live here if there are opportunities for large companies to lay off workers in the area.”

Eldar Hamza, 26, now works as a tour operator in Baku after his family was displaced by the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The nearby city of Agdam is also being rebuilt. Before the conflict, the city had almost 30,000 residents. Now, like Fizouli, it is practically deserted.

“We are in the planning phase and are now designing various locations,” said Emin Huseynov, Azerbaijani economist and special representative in the Agdam district, opposite ZDNet. “But the most important [part] is the basic infrastructure that is being made now. When it’s done, we’ll start building the city. “

The development of smart cities should be a boon to Azerbaijan’s ICT industry, which is still in its infancy, and its oil-oriented economy.

In 2016, ICT was one of eleven economic sectors identified by the Azerbaijani authorities as being of strategic importance to the country. The country has now adopted a strategic roadmap for its development; However, according to a report by IPHR and Azerbaijan Internet Watch, the ICT sector represented only 1.6% of Azerbaijan’s total GDP in 2020.

“I think that the ICT sector will develop faster because the development of smart cities also requires faster development of information technology,” Valiyev told ZDNet Informatik und Systemtechnik.

There is also great interest in IT and agriculture. Dmitry Andrianov, founder of Baku-based tech magazine InfoCity, says the development of smart cities and smart villages in the liberated areas of Karabakh should prove to be an incentive for the advancement of the Azerbaijani technology sector and points to the growth of the young IoT startup Sumaks and agritech startup Kibrit.

“All of this helps to create sustainable demand for young IT specialists,” says Andrianov.

Can Sustainability Be The Answer To A Growing Smart City Backlash?

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Yahya Mohamed Mao, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Scientya.com questions ‘can Sustainability be the Answer to a Growing Smart City Backlash?’ is answered in his write up below. The picture above is for illustration and is of FinExtra, publisher of this article.

Can Sustainability Be The Answer To A Growing Smart City Backlash?

2 August 2021

The constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity has led to concerns that these sources could turn into electronic panoptics as governments use data-driven technologies to maximize effective surveillance of their citizens. Smart City technologies have been developed with practical applications to improve effective law enforcement, optimize transportation services, improve basic infrastructure, including the provision of local government services, and e-governance platforms. This will improve urban planning and allow governments to tailor their services to the local population.

In some cases technology companies are believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities that have profited from the project at their expense by using public resources such as land and development rights. Such criticism is also drawn from data protection factors, since information flows function at the level of citizens and governments and undermine the concept of urban anonymity.

In several cases, lawmakers have passed or are considering legislation that would ban or restrict the construction of 5G cellular towers due to health concerns. While private and business industries consider 5G as a true milestone in today’s technology landscape, residents are largely suspicious of city governments and large technology companies in smart projects whose data track and collect over their everyday activities, not only compromising their privacy and security, but also selling the data without their consent. Fears of privacy intrusion in today’s digital age and rampant development that undermines public interest have exacerbated the erosion of trust between residents and municipalities, especially when private companies manage smart projects. 

Moreover, people are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. The lack of transparency about what happens to the data, in my opinion, is multiplying the increase in activity in smart cities.

It seems evident that smart cities cannot harness the potential of new data, emerging information technologies and many other components that are essential to fulfill the promise of better services and a better quality of life. One of the most important components of smart cities is sustainability, and sustainability as currently understood is poorly understood.

The exclusion of Smart City definitions from essays on technological solutions in computer science, engineering, and mathematics is one limitation of this study. Further research into the contribution of smart cities to sustainable development is essential. In fact, research suggests that one of the main objectives of Smart City initiatives is to improve quality of life, but there is no definition that explains what this means and what the cost to society and the environment will be. When defining smart cities, it is not clear whether economic growth and improved quality of life are closely linked or whether they are presented as competing agendas. Future efforts to define smart cities should take into account the cause-effect relationship between improving the quality of life and the use of modern technologies and reflect on the dimensions of sustainability.

Economic and financial resources influence the ability of governments to develop and maintain smart cities. Smart cities should focus on social sustainability not only on the provision of services, but also on sustainable mechanisms of civic engagement (Webster and Leleux, 2019) and knowledge sharing with employees (Radulescu et al, 2020) to achieve social sustainability. In terms of the attractiveness of urban life, the introduction of digital technologies and sensors to collect new data will help document weather conditions, noise, temporary projects, pop-up installations, festivals, festivals, holidays, day and night time and impact on usage. This will help landscape architects and urban planners to make informed decisions about the development of public places so that they are pleasant, inclusive and attractive places. 

Payment structures in Smart Cities

According to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) the following cities are the leading global smart cities:

  1. Singapore
  2. Dubai
  3. Oslo
  4. Copenhagen
  5. Boston
  6. Amsterdam
  7. New York
  8. London
  9. Barcelona
  10. Hong Kong

Interestingly, several of these locations also ranking high on Findexable’s index of 2020’s leading fintech hubs. As a consequence, digital payment architecture is expected to be similarly advanced.

A growing backlash?

The growing backlash against large technology companies, combined with the pandemic, has led to a waning enthusiasm for the term that dominates the discussion about the future of cities. Dropping the term “smart city” does not mean ignoring the technology’s potential for better cities

Conferences, marketplaces, and exhibitions have sprung up to showcase the latest gadgets that cities can buy to transform themselves. The challenges posed by smart cities have prompted metros of all sizes to embrace new technologies for the benefit of all, it seems clear, in order to join a growing global club of innovative communities. 

The link between smart cities and the extensive development of technologies makes it unsurprising that today’s tech companies are heavily involved in the building and growth process. The likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Huawei have developed various ideas for smart cities. IoT devices are in need of the collection of information making the latter essential for running a smart city. In this manner, Amazon and Google’s venture in smart city activities should not come as a surprise. As we all know, they have been making our homes progressively filled with gadgets such as Alexa and Google Home for a long time. It was only a matter of time before the scale increased!

The concept of smart cities dates back to the 1970s, when Los Angeles created the first urban big data project. Amsterdam became the first smart city with the creation of a virtual digital city in 1994. When in 2011 the inaugural Smart City Expo World Congress was held in Barcelona, it has immediately become an annual event dedicated to smart cities’ development. By 2050, up to 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and smart cities have been considered the ideal solution after decades of population growth and unplanned urban sprawl across the globe. Cities have a central role in strategic sustainable development. However, is smart also sustainable? Uncertainties and lack of trust resulting from the constant and ubiquitous transfer of data from various sources to a single government entity with tech giants believed to enter into opaque partnerships with municipal authorities have led to an increasing antipathy towards smart cities. People are afraid that the government will use the data it collects not only for the big government, but also for the companies that sell it. Could placing emphasis on sustainability be the answer to a growing smart city backlash? Lack of transparency is an important issue that must be actively discussed. We should stop presuming that “smart” is automatically “sustainable” and include sustainability as cornerstones of smart cities concept. Lack of transparency and people’s mistrust of how sensitive data is used accompanied by a poor understanding of sustainability and its relationship with increasing quality of life may contribute to the growing antipathy towards smart cities.

Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change

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There is a need to take the climate crisis more effectively to build a sustainable future. For that, local governments need to provide for equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change.

Environment Journal elaborates on all inherent aspect of how to go about it. In the meantime, more extensive and more significant areas in the MENA region, of which only two cities are affiliated to the referred to C40, gradually impacted by the now apparent climate alteration, still lack some comprehensive and coordinated moves to restore degraded ecosystems.

Anyway, here is a view of how to integrate the notion of environmental protection through the extensive and practical usage of the available data management infrastructure.

Equipping cities with actionable insights to combat climate change

In order to tackle the climate crisis and build a sustainable future, cities need data, writes Julia Moreno Rosino, inclusive climate action senior manager policy, data & analysis at C40, a network of the worlds megacities that are committed to addressing climate change.

As overall temperatures rise, the world is facing an increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires, droughts, severe storms, flooding and other extreme weather events.

World leaders are trying to address these problems with regulations and initiatives concerning greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, energy transition, and adaptation to climate hazards; and municipalities around the world are taking ever bolder action in these areas.

Cities, where 56% of the global population live, are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and are working to build a healthier and more sustainable future.

In order to do this, cities need data.

As data collection systems mature and expand around the world, they are providing an invaluable way for city officials to track their progress on a number of indicators and inform new strategies to tackle the most significant climate challenges. Tracking data alone is not enough cities must be able to use that information to produce actionable insights to foster decision-making and introduce meaningful changes as part of their climate action plans.

Data-driven knowledge sharing: benchmark results and inspire success

Climate action planning needs to include monitoring and evaluation.

Policymakers can especially benefit from continuous, real-time data to develop action plans that are fine-tuned to local considerations. For this, cities are collecting data and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate city performance on emissions, air quality, energy, climate adaptation and other key elements.

At C40 Cities, a network of 97 cities taking ambitious climate action, we have built multiple dashboards, both internal and public-facing, using the data analytics software Qlik Sense to analyse these metrics and indicators.

This allows us, and cities, to analyse specific regions or sectors, in a faster and more intuitive way than having to assess multiple, complex datasets. It allows benchmarking city performance and rapid identification of which cities are on track to meet particular targets and which might need more support.

For example, our Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dashboard hosted on C40s Knowledge Hub presents complex emissions data in an easy-to-analyse format. This dashboard can be used by cities, research organisations, or members of the general public to uncover which sectors and sub-sectors are contributing to higher emissions, such as aviation or buildings. City officials can also compare current emissions to previous years to better understand their emissions trajectory.

The Clean Construction Policy Explorer is a more niche dashboard that examines the policies cities have implemented to tackle emissions from a segment of their built environment and highlights which cities have committed to achieving low carbon and clean construction. By aggregating and surfacing this information, we hope to inspire all cities to raise their ambitions on clean construction policies while learning from the policies and progress of those who have gone first.

Our Adaptation Data Explorer allows cities to find other peers around the world that are experiencing similar climate hazards or extreme weather events. Here, city officials can obtain insights on how others are addressing a particular issue and the actions they are taking, either globally or within the same region. For example, there are many cities experiencing heat waves. Leaders from Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Barcelona, and others can learn from one another and through C40 connect to discuss what they are doing to deal with these extreme heat events. Similar groupings are forming in response to rising sea levels, wildfires, and floods.

Given that transportation accounts for an important percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also important to look at how mobility is evolving both in the face of infrastructure changes and the pandemic. We are using new forms of mobility data to see how public transportation dropped sharply during the first few months of the pandemic, and at the same time than cycling increased.

This has made an impact and changed the traditional mode share of transportation of many cities. What effect is this having on city emissions? Will this steep increase in cycling stay in most cities? These are all important questions that cities should be asking, and they need data to unearth the answers.

Advance to the next phase with automated insights

C40 not only aims to give our cities the data analysis and exploration options that I have explained above, but to also provide them with useful information on where to go next, so they can advance their respective climate goals in different sectors, often in highly local ways. To achieve this, we have dashboards that we share privately with our member cities, where we provide them tailored article recommendations depending on how they are performing against specific metrics.

For example, on their private page, a city can see its current rate of waste that is being diverted from landfill and incineration and compare this to peers and targets. The dashboard on the private Knowledge Hub page will also automatically recommend specific resources depending on the data for that city. If it is not on track on this indicator, it might be offered specific articles to support landfill reduction strategies. If a city is already progressing quickly, it will be recommended insights to further raise their ambition and work towards zero waste.

Every city has different needs and is in different phases of progression within multiple sectors; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the goal is to provide cities with the information that is most relevant to them depending on their data and queries, and ambitions.

Draw upon the expertise of others to achieve climate change goals

Data analytics and dashboards can help with this effort, providing a way for city officials to quickly explore their progress in various sectors, share knowledge and peruse proven insights. Such offerings will strengthen the network in which city officials and policymakers can draw upon the expertise of each other to achieve climate change goals. Although cities are taking big steps, we still need faster action to reduce the impact of climate change, and we hope that by helping cities to track results and performance, they will be better positioned to make meaningful changes.

Dubai completes first phase of unified employee database

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SmartCitiesWorld News team informs that Smart Dubai completes the first phase of the unified employee database, which is a commendable step towards its self-imposed reaching a particular knowledge economy, notably through lessening its uncertain future employment.   

However, one would not help but wonder if it were necessary to conjecture that more and more divestment in the region is getting more pronounced by the day unless it was meant to help.

Here is what is happening.

Smart Dubai completes first phase of unified employee database

7 Jun 2021

Dubai Government wants to optimise investment in its human resources and establish a reliable source of employee data, as well as meet the requirements of its smart city aspirations.

The initiative aligns with the emirate’s comprehensive shift towards smart technologies

Smart Dubai has completed phase one of the “Unified Registry for Dubai Government Employees” project which aims to enable the Dubai Government to optimise investment in its human resources and build their capacities.

Launched in collaboration with the Dubai Government Human Resources Department (DGHR) and the Dubai Electronic Security Centre, the project also seeks to establish a reliable source of government employee data as well as meet the requirements of its smart city aspirations.

Centralised database

The project forms part of the Dubai Registers initiative launched by Smart Dubai in March 2020. It aims to compile and present an accurate and centralised database to facilitate managing employee data.

This, in turn, helps with planning and decision-making on matters related to human resources within the Dubai Government and across various government entities, in line with the emirate’s policies for a comprehensive shift towards smart technologies.

According to Abdulla Ali Bin Zayed Al-Falasi, director general of DGHR, human resources is the cornerstone of any UAE development process, and therefore quality data about it should be available to officials to enable them to develop future plans and strategies.

“The Government of Dubai is moving steadily towards a comprehensive and complete digital transformation, in line with our leadership’s vision to establish a digital government dedicated to embracing advanced technologies and using them to formulate solutions that enhance government efficiency and ensure the best use of human resources,” said Younus Al Nasser, assistant director general of Smart Dubai, and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment.

“The ultimate goal is to help the UAE advance to the highest ranks on performance indexes across all sectors.”

Phase one saw 24 Dubai Government entities take part in the project including the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Directorate General of Civil Defence, Department of Finance, and Dubai Police General Command.

“The Government of Dubai is moving steadily towards a comprehensive and complete digital transformation, in line with our leadership’s vision to establish a digital government dedicated to embracing advanced technologies”

Smart Dubai reports 40 per cent of the project’s second phase has been completed, in collaboration with its strategic partners. Phase two will see another 30 government entities added to the list, with more than 130 entities slated to join the project by the end of the fourth and final phase.

The DGHR has been in charge of determining which data is mandatory to be included in the registry and which is only optional, after the data is approved by Smart Dubai. DGHR is then entrusted with following up on government entities to ensure their compliance.

Data quality standards

Meanwhile, Smart Dubai is tasked with designing the registry, linking it with other registers in the emirate, ensuring data quality standards are met, and approving the data descriptions and classifications submitted by government entities when feeding their employee data into the registry.

As the government entity in charge of the security and protection of data, networks, and all government electronic systems, the Dubai Electronic Security Centre is working to link the registry with the centre itself to be able to run regular checks on the system and ensure all security standards are met, in coordination with Smart Dubai.

What Is the Internet of Taxes?

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What Is the Internet of Taxes? A question answered by Toby Bargar in his article dated May 13, 2021, explains how in this day and age, the Internet generally is gradually spreading wider and wider to cover most daily life. But to this extent, who would have thought so?

So, let us see what it is all about.

What Is the Internet of Taxes?

According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, IoT could have an annual economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion by 2025. Adoption is accelerating across several settings, including factories, retailers, and even the human body. In fact, smart cities will reportedly create business opportunities worth $2.46 trillion by 2025, and by 2030 more than 70% of global smart city, spending will be from the United States, Western Europe, and China. With AI and the rollout of 5G facilitating faster speeds and scalability, we will see even greater demand across sectors for IoT solutions.

The ability to tax IoT may require changing laws and regulations. As we continue to adopt smart solutions, companies have to get smart about the nuances and risks of IoT taxability.

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An oft-repeated phrase says that nothing is certain but death and taxes; however, in the case of IoT, we can say that nothing is certain but growth and taxes – we don’t yet know how it’s all going to shake out. The demand for IoT is going to tempt federal, state, and local jurisdictions to tax it. With voice communications taxable revenues declining, taxing IoT is an attractive option to replenish their coffers.

In 1998, Congress passed a moratorium banning state and local governments from taxing internet access. This ban was extended several times. The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) converted the moratorium to a permanent ban and was fully implemented nationwide on July 1, 2020. Since the initial moratorium, the internet has risen to be a critical communication tool over other more highly taxed wireless and landline voice options, which continue a steady decline.

The ability to tax IoT may require changing laws and regulations. This process could take some time, but there is a complicated web of laws, regulations, and tax liabilities surrounding IoT in the interim. As we continue to adopt smart solutions, companies have to get smart about the nuances and risks of IoT taxability.

There are two easy questions that will help you to begin to understand your IoT taxability risk.

1) Is your company selling internet access?
2) Is your connectivity embedded or over-the-top?

Over-the-Top or Embedded Connectivity

If your device is networked over a user-supplied connection, then access is over-the-top or bring-your-own Internet connectivity. The over-the-top connection can be wired, Wi-Fi, or purchased separately from a wireless service. For example, if you sell a wireless printer, users connect through their home or office network. You are not supplying the internet, but the device. In these cases, as an IoT device maker, you likely have no responsibility for the customer’s internet connection.

Different than over-the-top, an embedded connection is part of the device. If you sell a device that comes with its own data connection as a component of the sale or service plan, it is embedded. Smartphones are a great example of an embedded connection. The relationships between device makers and network operators can feature widely variable structures. The device provider may need to account for any taxes that need to be collected related to the connection.

The World Wide Web of Gray

Defining internet access may appear intuitive, but not all connectivity is considered internet access. If you are selling a service that meets the statutory definitions of ISP service, the federal law provides a moratorium against state and local taxes.

Private connectivity, however, is often taxable. Unlike the public internet, private connectivity occurs via a Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN). This type of access is considered a taxable communication service in most states. If the network is interstate, this will also subject you to the Federal Universal Service Fund fee (FUSF), which is currently 33.4%, an all-time high for this fee and growing higher every quarter.

However, there are questions about whether connections to devices that do not enable a WWW experience – you connect to the internet, but the end-user can’t log onto Facebook or perform a Google search – meet the federal definitions of ISP service. If you do not meet those definitions, then your likely tax destination could be LAN/WAN.

Avoid the Dead Zone

IoT is here to stay. As you develop and deploy IoT solutions, it will be critical to stay informed on the web of tax rules that may or may not apply to your business. Monitor federal and state agencies that have jurisdiction over internet taxation and stay abreast of any changes on the horizon.

With so much uncertainty, it can be tempting to push the envelope, but a conservative interpretation of tax guidance can proactively protect you from being caught off guard.

Finally, to avoid hitting a dead zone, don’t try to navigate the changes on your own. Consult with your tax and legal advisors to ensure that you are aware of the latest developments and plan your course of action accordingly.