Is digital trust the key to sustainable planning? wondered Nicole Bennetts, Senior Urban and Regional Planner in an ARUP blog. The answer follows.
Is digital trust the key to sustainable planning?
Our growth challenges in cities globally are becoming more complex. Now more than ever, we need new solutions and creativity to help us shape more resilient and sustainable cities in the future.
For the first time in history, we have access to dynamic urban data to understand people’s collective behaviours in real time. If used, this expansive evidence base can help planners, designers, and decision-makers make more informed decisions about the future of our cities.
However, the timing dilemma is an obstacle in harnessing this data. While urban environments typically develop every 50 years, technology moves more rapidly, significantly improving every five years, creating a disparity between urban planning and urban living.
So how does the planning industry keep pace with digital technology to create sustainable outcomes? One way is to improve our relationship with the digital world and put trust and confidence in digital tools and innovative solutions.
While urban environments typically develop every 50 years, technology moves more rapidly, significantly improving every five years, creating a disparity between urban planning and urban living.
While urban environments typically develop every 50 years, technology moves more rapidly, significantly improving every five years, creating a disparity between urban planning and urban living.
Why should planners trust data and digital?
Our cities are where urban planning and living come together. They are a super ‘neural network’ of interrelated systems. To create intelligent, responsive cities, urban development must embrace new possibilities using data and the internet of things (IoT).
Technology and data have never been more available. As a result, urban planning has a massive opportunity to unleash its full potential by investing more time and resources into harnessing data and digital planning.
Tools like the ‘digital twin’ are likely to become an indispensable part of future ‘urban infrastructure’, enabling the seamless integration of the ‘physical’ and ‘digital’ worlds and redefining how we plan.
Similarly, digital master planning is a framework to test thousands of options based on various variables and parameters to test failure, resilience, adaptative pathways, optimal living conditions, human health and welling, energy efficiency and more.
The planning industry must adapt to this changing paradigm, by matching the efforts and confidence invested in building the cloud system and IoT coverage, or risk being left behind.
To create intelligent, responsive cities, urban development must embrace new possibilities using data and the internet of things (IoT).
How Arup planners are using the power of digital
Projects worldwide show the value and credibility of digital tools to create growth and provide sustainable outcomes.
Cities urban tree canopy is a critical component of green infrastructure providing comfortable environments and reducing heat. Arup’s leading Urban tree canopy analysis used is a study for the City of Gold Coast, which uses a computer algorithm to determine the percentage of vegetation cover over different time intervals to show canopy changes.
Terrain is Arup’s bespoke artificial intelligence and land use analysis tool. It harnesses the power of data analytics, machine learning and automation to accurately digest large quantities of data and satellite imagery. Using this tool, we calculated seven cities’ sponginess by measuring the green and blue infrastructure areas to understand how cities can better use this infrastructure to face increasing threats from climate change – including heavy rainfall and extreme heat events.
Another Arup tool is the City Algorithm Tool (CAT) which tests hundreds of growth scenarios using different development and community value parameters to determine optimal outcomes for urban living. For example, Smakkelaarsveld in the Netherlands used algorithms to optimise the scheme design against multiple KPIs, including sustainability and environmental objectives.
Similarly, digital master planning can test site and precinct options based on various variables and parameters to test failure, resilience, adaptative pathways and optimal living conditions.
The last example, solar analysis helps test hundreds of layouts and orientations to achieve optimal living conditions and thermal comfort. For example, for Mahindra World City Jaipur, we used solar assessment tools to determine the optimal orientation for the plots and streets to provide thermal comfort in a hot climate.
Small risks, great rewards
Trust in the planning process is the foundation for our cities to take the best path to sustainable growth. Taking small, calculated risks in improving our digital capabilities now can lead to great rewards for our cities.
Taking small, calculated risks in improving our digital capabilities now can lead to great rewards for our cities.
Speed and efficiency, automating tedious and repetitive tasks and allowing more design and collaboration time.
Test 3D scenarios, assessing hundreds or thousands of options during the planning process against agreed parameters or criteria.
Facilitate approval process, comparing design scenarios with consented planning schemes and existing site conditions for faster agreement on key issues.
Identify client priorities; testing many possibilities can help identify what is most important.
Improve participatory design; with more data, we can understand community needs and improve community engagement.
As of October 2021, 44 countries were reported to have their own national AI strategic plans, showing their willingness to forge ahead in the global AI race. These include emerging economies like China and India, which are leading the way in building national AI plans within the developing world.
Oxford Insights, a consultancy firm that advises organisations and governments on matters relating to digital transformation, has ranked the preparedness of 160 countries across the world when it comes to using AI in public services. The US ranks first in their 2021 Government AI Readiness Index, followed by Singapore and the UK.
Notably, the lowest-scoring regions in this index include much of the developing world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Carribean and Latin America, as well as some central and south Asian countries.
The developed world has an inevitable edge in making rapid progress in the AI revolution. With greater economic capacity, these wealthier countries are naturally best positioned to make large investments in the research and development needed for creating modern AI models.
In contrast, developing countries often have more urgent priorities, such as education, sanitation, healthcare and feeding the population, which override any significant investment in digital transformation. In this climate, AI could widen the digital divide that already exists between developed and developing countries.
The hidden costs of modern AI
AI is traditionally defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. To solve problems and perform tasks, AI models generally look at past information and learn rules for making predictions based on unique patterns in the data.
AI is a broad term, comprising two main areas – machine learning and deep learning. While machine learning tends to be suitable when learning from smaller, well-organised datasets, deep learning algorithms are more suited to complex, real-world problems – for example, predicting respiratory diseases using chest X-ray images.
Crucially, neural networks are data hungry, often requiring millions of examples to learn how to perform a new task well. This means they require a complex infrastructure of data storage and modern computing hardware, compared to simpler machine learning models. Such large-scale computing infrastructure is generally unaffordable for developing nations.
Beyond the hefty price tag, another issue that disproportionately affects developing countries is the growing toll this kind of AI takes on the environment. For example, a contemporary neural network costs upwards of US$150,000 to train, and will create around 650kg of carbon emissions during training (comparable to a trans-American flight). Training a more advanced model can lead to roughly five times the total carbon emissions generated by an average car during its entire lifetime.
Developed countries have historically been the leading contributors to rising carbon emissions, but the burden of such emissions unfortunately lands most heavily on developing nations. The global south generally suffers disproportionate environmental crises, such as extreme weather, droughts, floods and pollution, in part because of its limited capacity to invest in climate action.
Developing countries also benefit the least from the advances in AI and all the good it can bring – including building resilience against natural disasters.
Using AI for good
While the developed world is making rapid technological progress, the developing world seems to be underrepresented in the AI revolution. And beyond inequitable growth, the developing world is likely bearing the brunt of the environmental consequences that modern AI models, mostly deployed in the developed world, create.
But it’s not all bad news. According to a 2020 study, AI can help achieve 79% of the targets within the sustainable development goals. For example, AI could be used to measure and predict the presence of contamination in water supplies, thereby improving water quality monitoring processes. This in turn could increase access to clean water in developing countries.
The benefits of AI in the global south could be vast – from improving sanitation to helping with education, to providing better medical care. These incremental changes could have significant flow-on effects. For example, improved sanitation and health services in developing countries could help avert outbreaks of disease.
But if we want to achieve the true value of “good AI”, equitable participation in the development and use of the technology is essential. This means the developed world needs to provide greater financial and technological support to the developing world in the AI revolution. This support will need to be more than short term, but it will create significant and lasting benefits for all.
Here is Gilgamesh Nabeel in MENA Region Digital Transformation Can Create More Jobs as per a recent report that says so.
Over 230 students attend a workshop held by the Elaf Center and the Earthlink Telecommunications at Diyala University, northeast of Baghdad, to be better prepared for the labour market. (Photo Courtesy: Elaf Center for Media Training, 2021).
Lack of digital infrastructure contributes to high rates of youth unemployment in the MENA region, a new report says.
The report, “COVID-19 and Internet Accessibility in the MENA Region”, was published in mid-December by the U.S.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It assesses the readiness of the MENA region countries to shift employment online, both in terms of Internet availability and digital literacy among the populace.
Its authors, Alexander Farley and Manuel Langendorf, argue that increasing internet accessibility and investing in digital infrastructure development can help governments’ efforts to form a digitally-enabled economic recovery strategy.
While the MENA region is projected to have 160 million potential digital users by 2025, the paper draws a bleak image of its internet infrastructure and accessibility.
Last year, 34 percent of the population in Arab states was not using the Internet, according to ITU data. In 2019, the GSMA, which represent the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, found that almost half the people in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, which have a mobile broadband network, are not using the Internet. Around 60 million people in the MENA region were not covered by a mobile network.
“Studies have shown that broadband development leads to increased GDP and has a positive impact on employment in the short term – part of the picture are newly created jobs to build new digital infrastructure,”
Manuel Langendorf A researcher focusing on digital transformation in the MENA region and co-author of the report
Furthermore, with the exception of the UAE and Qatar, which cover about 80 percent of households directly with fiber, only nine out of 100 inhabitants in Arab states used fixed broadband subscriptions, the second-lowest rate of all world regions, after Africa.
The paper says the development of digital infrastructure overall continues to lag behind the rest of the world. This holds back the region’s digital transformation and deprives it of the benefits of investment in improving national core networks.
Digital Infrastructure Development Boosts Jobs
Overall, unemployment in the MENA region stood at 11.6 percent with the “the low-skilled, the young, women, and migrant workers were affected the most” by the pandemic, the report says. In 2019, youth unemployment was over 25 percent, with further decline in youth employment by an additional 10 percent in 2020.
Manuel Langendorf, a researcher focusing on digital transformation in the MENA region and co-author of the report, argued that proper investment in digital infrastructure can help government confront unemployment.
“Digital transformation is not a silver bullet to solve the MENA region’s protracted unemployment problem, but it can create new job opportunities, especially for the large young and relatively tech-savvy population,” Langendorf told Al-Fanar Media.
“Studies have shown that broadband development leads to increased GDP and has a positive impact on employment in the short term – part of the picture are newly created jobs to build new digital infrastructure,” he added.
While the longer term effects seem less clear, Langendorf thinks a country-wide improvement to digital infrastructure can bring new economic opportunities, including for disadvantaged populations and rural areas.
“These include the expansion of remote working, as an employee or freelance worker, and also allows workers to search for employment opportunities more widely,” he added. “An improved digital infrastructure also opens up new job opportunities in online education.”
Citing the installation of ten submarine internet cables between Europe and Africa, he said: “We found a significant and large relative increase in the employment rate in connected areas when fast internet becomes available.”
Do We Need More IT Graduates?
In the Internet era, when many traditional jobs might disappear, students see IT-related courses as a route to secure jobs.
However, the report highlighted that some countries, like Jordan, graduate around 5,000 students in IT-related fields each year, yet less than 2,000 are hired. Still, some see an opportunity for ICT graduates from the region to fill the shortage of skilled IT workers in Western countries.
“University curricula in most MENA countries are slow to update, thus creating a situation where many fresh graduates hold a diploma but are not ready to start working in the IT sector as their knowledge is outdated,” he wrote to Al-Fanar Media.
“Nevertheless, many MENA startups have had great success in the past years. In 2021, MENA-based startups raised close to $3 billion, a new record for the region.”
He called on the education and the private sectors to collaborate to improve the university-job pipeline and close the skills gap. “Both sides should make sure that the latest IT knowledge is integrated into curricula and set up internship opportunities for students and graduates,” he said. “Beyond universities, the private sector and educational institutions can hold more workshops to bring people up to speed.”
The report also identified management skills as one of the biggest challenges to expanding potential of IT in the MENA region. “The lack of management skills affects the scalability of projects and businesses that can make use of the surplus of advanced IT skills,” said Farley.
Moreover, the authors said the MENA region lacks truly innovative IT ventures, and is focused instead on adapting ideas created elsewhere.
“In this context, the region is often described as a consumer rather than a creator of technology,” said Farley. “Nevertheless, many MENA startups have had great success in the past years. In 2021, MENA-based startups raised close to $3 billion, a new record for the region.”
Fruitful Digital Transformation Tips
Governments and other stakeholders need to ensure that the expansion of digital infrastructure focuses not just on connectivity (areas covered by Internet), but accessibility, the authors went on.
“Is using the Internet affordable? Do people have access to devices to use the Internet?” wondered Langendorf. “Mobile industry body GSMA estimated those living in areas with a mobile broadband network but not using mobile internet increased from 41 percent to 48 percent between 2014 and 2020.”
To enable investments in digital infrastructure to tackle unemployment, Langendorf calls on governments to support entrepreneurship. “They need to facilitate starting a business and obtaining loans, and decriminalizing bankruptcy,” he said.
“Besides, they should enable cross-border trade and the movement of skilled people between countries.”
The above image is for illustration and is of Finance Magnates by Daily Advent.
In an exclusive interview with Finance Magnates, Achraf Drid, Managing Director of XTB MENA, recently discussed the global growth in trading volumes across the FX and CFD market. Drid believes that the MENA region holds a special place in the global financial services industry.
XTB is one of the largest financial brokerages in the world. Listed on Warsaw Stock Exchange, the financial trading services provider witnessed rapid growth in 2021.
It’s a pleasure having you with us Mr. Drid, for our readers, can you please introduce yourself?
Thank you for having me; it is my pleasure. I am the Managing Director of XTB MENA DIFC in Dubai, and XTB is one of the world’s leading brokerage companies. In my role, I’m actively involved in the company’s business development, legal processes, and all compliance aspects. I am also deeply involved in the company’s financial strength in investing in Fintech since we provide our customers not only the highest level of customer support but also the highest level of technology. Since XTB entered the MENA region, I have focused mainly on setting up and managing the company’s core sales and risk management processes. I’m also involved in the regulatory framework of the company to lead XTB into the future with integrity and transparency.
We are new to the MENA region, but we have been around since 2005 when XTB was founded in Warsaw as a company. We are one of the biggest brokerages in Europe and are also listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Worldwide, we have been offering CFDs, Forex, commodities and indices for years, and then we saw an opportunity in the MENA region to cater to the increasing demand for a reliable and trustworthy broker in this part of the world.
What differentiates us from other brokers? First, we are not just a financial company, we are a fintech firm, since we employ more than 200 IT developers in our headquarters, and we keep improving our offering and services every month. We are not looking to be compared with other brokers; our goal is to be the Amazon or Netflix of trading.
Secondly, many brokers rely on the MetaTrader 4 platform, but we also offer our proprietary platform called xStation, which has won numerous awards. We have a large IT team responsible for keeping it up-to-date and who ensure it’s always working at top efficiency. I’m proud of our GUI platform and honestly believe it’s one of the best in the market.
Finally, we place a significant focus on education. I believe we’re one of the most education-focused brokerages in the world. Many resources are found on our platform, including various educational videos and reading material. The content recorded hasn’t only been produced by us and by some of the world’s most famous traders. We heavily focus on education when we present our platforms to the clients virtually and when we meet them in person.
Trading volumes across the FX and CFD industry jumped substantially in 2020 due to the lockdown, while the industry sustained growth levels in 2021, do you think the trend will continue into 2022?
The actual gross market value of OTC FX and CFDs has been rising; the Covid-19-induced market turmoil and strong policy responses drove developments in FX markets throughout 2020. This increase coincided with the significant depreciation of the US dollar against other major currencies. Acting as the primary vehicle currency, the US dollar was on one side of more than 80% of all currency pairs (measured by both notional amount and gross market value). Sizeable US dollar exchange rate movements can lead to more trading in FX and CFDs in the current year (2022).
Additionally, if you look back into the last ten years, forex trading has grown exponentially. Looking at the forex market in 2008, there were about US$48 trillion traded, and today that number is closer to US$80 trillion, which shows a growth of over 50%. I believe that the volume will continue to grow in 2022 at a steady rate, with forex trading making up 40% of the world’s total market.
In terms of financial services, the MENA region is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, what makes MENA different from other locations?
The Middle East’s importance is rapidly growing in the global forex market, especially with its retail segment, compared to a relative slowdown and decline in other international markets.
It is driven by increased investor awareness of the opportunities available in global trading and the region’s strategic location between Asia and Europe as a hub. The local time zone enables it to capture market opening hours in the Far East and the US…and closing hours in the same working day, giving it better access to the broader global market, particularly the G7 currencies.
As we are based out of Dubai and regulated by the DIFC, we have experienced substantial growth of the UAE economy and the increasing number of ex-pats coming to live and work here; we have seen FX transactional flows rising, both in and out of the country.
Going forward into 2022, how is XTB MENA planning to expand its presence in the region?
The MENA region did go through significant challenges during the last two years, (with) the COVID-19 pandemic having an impact on the regional economy, like the rest of the world. However, some countries have adopted rapid, decisive and innovative measures to contain the virus, such as the smooth crisis management developed by regional governments.
MENA countries have responded rapidly to mitigate the economic consequences of the crisis on the private sectors and households and keep the financial market functioning. On average, 2.7% of GDP was allocated to fiscal measures, while 3.4% of GDP (over USD 47 billion) in liquidity injection was activated by Central Banks across the region during the first few weeks of the crisis.
The MENA market is estimated to witness significant growth, and at XTB, we feel very confident. The reason we decided to establish XTB regional office in the UAE is part of our strategic growth plan to support our customers locally, not only in FX but across other asset classes under our portfolio, including oil, gas and bullion.
Sponsorships played an important role in global brand awareness of financial trading platforms, how is XTB planning to use sports sponsorships for its global growth?
In the past, we had a partnership with McLaren Mercedes, then with Hollywood actor Mads Mikkelsen, and now we have a partnership with Jose Mourinho, and we have other plans for the future – for obvious reasons; we would like to keep this as a surprise!
Hassan El-Banna, Sr. Business Development Manager Middle East, Turkey & Africa (META) at Genetec gives us in AMEInfo, a Look out at these physical security trends in 2022.
Standardization of open and interoperable solutions across smart cities, faster hybrid cloud adoption, and a tighter focus on supply chain risks are some of the top physical security topics to keep an eye on
Organizations are employing spatial analytics data to cut wait times
Video analytics apps will be easier and more cost-effective to implement at scale
Smart city investments would reach $203 billion by 2024
The long-term impacts of the pandemic and other geopolitical events will generate new technical developments and considerations in 2022. Standardization of open and interoperable solutions across smart cities, faster hybrid cloud adoption, and a tighter focus on supply chain risks are some of the top physical security topics to keep an eye on.
Top physical security trends in 2022
Monitoring occupancy and space usage will continue to be a significant focus.
Occupancy tracking is still expanding nearly two years after the pandemic began, as businesses see value in the data collected. Organizations are employing spatial analytics data to cut wait times, manage staff scheduling, and improve company operations, in addition to safety goals.
Corporate organizations are also figuring out how to make their workplaces more efficient by splitting their work time between the office and home. The use of data on space utilization translates to increased operational efficiency, better resource management, and significant cost savings.
Large-scale deployments of video analytics will become more feasible.
Video analytics solutions have been in high demand in recent years. More companies are keen to invest as AI techniques such as machine learning, and deep learning continues to increase the power of analytics. However, complex video analytics still necessitate extremely powerful servers for appropriate data processing, making them impractical for large-scale adoption.
We predict that by 2022, video analytics apps will have matured to the point that they will be easier and more cost-effective to implement at scale.
Cybercrime will continue to evolve, requiring new approaches.
According to an analysis by Cybersecurity Ventures, global crime expenditures are expected to exceed $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This is the most significant transfer of economic wealth in history, with a growth rate of 15% per year. According to the EMEA Physical Security in 2021 survey results, with the rise of work-from-home and the growing adoption of IoT, 48% of MEA respondents believed in the prioritization of the implementation of better business continuity plans. Against this backdrop, 67% of respondents planned to prioritize the improvement of their cybersecurity strategy in 2021. Cybersecurity concerns will continue to be a priority in 2022, with companies needing new approaches to face the growing cybercrime risks.
Businesses will need to be agile and sensitive to the expanding threat landscape as more devices come online and data processing becomes vital to operations. Customers want companies to keep their data safe and secure. Thus businesses must provide more openness. This will bring in a new cybersecurity model based on continuous verification rather than network and system hardening, alongside an increased focus on choosing partners who offer better degrees of automation.
The smart city movement will be aided by open architecture.
Smart city investments would reach $203 billion by 2024, according to a report titled IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Smart Cities and Communities 2021 Predictions. These smart towns are gathering massive amounts of data and seeking to improve urban safety and liveability. According to the IMD-SUTD Smart City Index 2021, the UAE ranks 29th amongst the world’s smart cities, with 78.5% of the respondents believing in the importance of data-driven physical safety procedures such as facial recognition as a part of necessary processes to improve law enforcement.
The ecology of the smart city also includes intelligent structures. Various businesses are attempting to evaluate data from different sensors and automate procedures. The problem is that this necessitates a shift away from proprietary solutions by cities and corporations. Human and data silos are inherently created by the closed-architecture concept, which stifles growth prospects.
By focusing on open and interoperable solutions, decision-makers will get the most out of their current technology investments by improving data sharing and collaboration. Longer-term, they’ll become more adaptable to changing requirements and more self-sufficient in data unification and ownership.
Adaptable access control technology will continue to be adopted by businesses.
Today’s businesses want more from their access control systems. They desire more flexibility in hardware choices, streamlined processes, and increased convenience for those who pass through their buildings daily.
Many businesses had to get innovative to comply with increased health and safety regulations during the pandemic. Regardless of where they are on the return-to-work spectrum, organizations today recognize that the new normal necessitates agility. This is why they’re investing in PIAM systems (physical identity access management).
Businesses may automate employee and guest access requests and remotely alter access rights for all employees using a self-service PIAM system, ensuring greater safety and compliance. Additionally, by combining access control and PIAM systems, onsite movement may be tracked, making it easier for businesses to spot possible COVID-19 transmission. We expect this trend toward more modern and adaptive access control systems to continue as the new year progresses.
Supply chain operations will receive more attention and emphasis.
Organizations are under pressure to evaluate their entire supply chain ecosystem as cyber threats get more sophisticated and global disruptions influence supply management everywhere. During the SolarWinds Attack, a flaw in its own IT resource management system exposed over 18,000 customers to malware, including Fortune 500 firms and US government agencies.
More enterprises and government agencies will widen the scope of their cybersecurity policies to create baseline security criteria for the products they acquire and the vendors they engage with, in a world where organizations no longer have clearly defined network perimeters.
Any supply chain issues in obtaining physical security equipment will encourage firms to become less reliant on proprietary solutions from a single provider. Should product availability, best practices, or lack of transparency for a specific vendor be questioned, decision-makers will be able to browse different vendor options and easily change out system components.
More businesses will migrate to the cloud and use a hybrid deployment model.
The adoption of cloud computing is increasing. While many businesses aren’t ready to make the entire leap to the cloud, many are looking to the hybrid cloud deployment approach as a way to try out new apps.
As more physical security teams begin to experiment with cloud apps, the advantages of hybrid cloud will become clear. This will propel the use of cloud technology even further forward this year.
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