Why governing data is key for the future of cities

By Carlos Santiso, Director and Marcelo Facchina, Lead Smart Cities Specialist, Digital Innovation in Government Directorate, Development Bank of Latin America

Leer este blog en español

Technology is changing city dwellers lives, as well as how urban centres evolve to meet their needs. The pandemic has accelerated this transformation, and the digital transition has generated an explosion of data, especially in cities. In this context, the ability of local governments to manage urban problems will be paramount for the recovery, and the pandemic has helped us better understand the missing elements we need to govern cities effectively. For instance, the World Bank’s World Development Report of 2021 underscored that a data infrastructure policy is one of the building blocks of a good data governance framework, both to foster the local data economy and promote digital inclusion.  

It is inconceivable not to consider cities as an integral part of the solution to challenges like tackling social exclusion, improving public services and reducing insecurity, among others. A key issue that has become increasingly prominent in city agendas is the good governance of data; that is how data is handled and for what purpose, its quality and integrity, as well as the privacy and security concerns related to its collection and use. In other words, city governments need to preserve people’s trust in the way they handle data to improve lives.

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Porque los datos son centrales para el futuro de las ciudades

Por Carlos Santiso y Marcelo Facchina – respectivamente, director y especialista líder en ciudades inteligentes de la dirección de innovación digital del estado de CAF – Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina

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Las tecnologías están cambiando la vida de las personas en las ciudades y la forma en que los centros urbanos evolucionan para satisfacer sus necesidades. La pandemia aceleró esta transformación de manera disruptiva.

Es imposible no considerar a las ciudades como parte integral de la ecuación para resolver los desafíos relacionados con la lucha contra las exclusiones sociales, la mejora de los servicios públicos y la reducción de la inseguridad, entre otros. En este contexto de rupturas y disrupciones, la capacidad de los gobiernos locales para gestionar los problemas urbanos será central para la recuperación y la pandemia ha permitido comprender con mayor claridad los diversos elementos que faltan para gobernar las ciudades de forma eficaz.

Un tema clave que ha surgido con fuerza en la agenda pública ha sido cómo se manejan los datos y para que propósito; pero también su calidad e integridad, así como las garantías de privacidad y seguridad. Es decir, la confianza que tienen los ciudadanos en la manera en que los gobiernos locales manejan sus datos para mejorar vidas.

Un gobierno local moderno no se sostiene sin una buena gobernanza de los datos, una infraestructura de datos segura, y talento digital para sacarle valor. La política de datos debe por lo tanto funcionar como un elemento articulador de las estrategias de transformación, definiendo el alcance, la dirección, las responsabilidades y los procedimientos para el camino hacia territorios más responsivos y resilientes.

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Re-imagining cities in the COVID-19 era

By Robert Muggah, Principal, SecDev Group & Co-founder, Igarape Institute


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Empty streets in Lima, Peru, during the Coronavirus outbreak, March 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is quietly and radically reconfiguring cities around the world. It has already brought several of the world’s global cities to their knees. In addition to the billions of people forced to work remotely are another billion living in slums who depend on the informal economy, have few safety nets and are seeing their incomes and livelihoods upended. With the COVID-19 pandemic now rapidly intensifying in lower- and middle-income cities and neighbourhoods, it is overwhelming under-resourced hospitals, demolishing commerce, shredding remittances, straining digital infrastructure, increasing vulnerability to cyberattacks and intensifying mental health illnesses. Many cities were already facing massive liabilities and revenue shortfalls before the outbreak of the pandemic – yet these are set to intensify dramatically around the world. Continue reading

Fighting COVID-19 in Africa’s informal settlements

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Boris Golovnev/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the world’s richest cities but poses an even greater threat to cities in the developing world. There are now more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, in all 54 countries, with South Africa and Egypt the worst affected.

One of the most pressing concerns for Africa is that over half the population (excluding in North Africa) live in overcrowded informal settlements. In these areas where several people have to share one badly ventilated room, diseases such as COVID-19 spread fast and it is impossible to practice physical distancing whether in homes or outside. Continue reading

Helping Cities and Regions achieve the SDGs: Partnering for Decentralised Development Co-operation

By Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate and Lamia Kamal-Chaoui, Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities (CFE)

 

UrbanisationAll too often international aid is viewed through the traditional lens of nation states. A rich-poor relationship of a developed country providing a one-way flow of financial assistance to a developing country to address crucial development issues, whether they are societal, economic or environmental in nature. However, the impact of these problems is acutely felt at the local level and requires global collaborative responses at the subnational level. Decentralised development co-operation (DDC) – the exchange of resources between subnational governments in developed and developing countries – offers a pragmatic and effective approach to addressing the most critical issues and to achieving the sustainable development goals.

Following the onset of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has had to provide adequate housing and basic services to over one million refugees, or nearly 20% of the world’s total Syrian refugee population.[1] At the forefront of this daunting task are municipalities, which in most instances critically lack the resources and funding to deliver. Continue reading

Urban Management in Africa Observed

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By Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat; and
Marco Kamiya, Head, Urban Economy and Finance Branch, UN-Habitat, Global Headquarters in Keny


This blog is part of a series marking the 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


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Downtown Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: unhabitat.org

Africa is at a defining moment in its developmental journey. After experiencing 5% growth from 2001 to 2014, and a slowdown in between, the continent is projected to grow by over 3.5% in 2020 (UN, 2019). Continued economic progress presents opportunities for further accelerated, sustained, and inclusive growth provided that the right policies are put in place.

However, low productivity levels in manufacturing, services and the agricultural sector pose a major threat of economic stagnation with effects on African cities. Africa’s Development Dynamics 2019 by the OECD and the African Union Commission shows that Africa has a labour productivity ratio that is 50% lower than Asia’s and only 12% that of the United States. We believe that low productivity correlates with the quality of urbanisation. We define the quality of urbanisation as human settlements and communities that are able to capture the benefits of urban growth and expansion, quantified by more local and foreign investment, increased regional and international trade, enhanced revenues for local governments, better services for citizens and the activation of a virtuous circle where economic growth and welfare become self-reinforcing (UN-Habitat, 2017).

So, what are the most pressing needs of African cities to improve their quality of urbanisation? Below, we would like to share some general observations from our field projects that could serve to support policy design.[i] Continue reading

Innovation Driving the City

By Ms. Theresa Mathawaphan and Ms. Yaowarat Kekina, National Innovation Agency (Public Organisation), Thailand


Check out the 28 March 2019 EMnet meeting on
“Global Challenges for Business in Emerging Markets”
with a special focus on Smart Cities in Asia


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Bangkok CyberTech District Development

Innovation and technology currently play an increasing role in developing the urban city by tackling multiple challenges. Many cities in the ASEAN region have set-up urban development strategies by creating an innovation ecosystem to elevate the area’s economy and investment, reaching a global level. This makes the “innovation city” concept more recognised and used as a new way of driving the development of cities.

Proof of this is the Innovation Cities Index 2018. This report evaluates the city innovation ecosystem capability of 500 cities worldwide, reflecting the vision that a city can grow and be sustainably driven when citizens and corporations are capable of generating innovation. This index measures three main aspects, namely cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets, and has a total of 162 indexes. Continue reading

Visualising urbanisation: How the Africapolis platform sheds new light on urban dynamics in Africa

By Lia Beyeler, Communications Officer and Nisha Schumann, Consultant, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

Africa’s urban population is the fastest growing in the world. By 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to nearly one billion additional people. Yet, where and how Africa’s cities of the future emerge and evolve are insufficiently understood.

Traditionally, the focus has been put on larger cities as opposed to smaller urban agglomerations. Yet, smaller agglomerations with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants represent one-third of Africa’s overall urban population, accounting for more than 180 million people in 2015. Their significance is highlighted by the fact that many of the continent’s future cities are emerging through the fusion of smaller cities or through population densification in rural areas – trends that are not captured in official statistics and government data, which tend to focus on cities as political units with defined boundaries.

The OECD Sahel and West Africa Club’s Africapolis platform, which launched during the 8th Africities Conference in Marrakesh, seeks to bridge the gap in data on African urbanisation dynamics. It provides a powerful tool for governments, policy makers, researchers and urban planners to better understand urbanisation’s drivers, dynamics and impacts. This understanding, in turn, will help design more relevant policies that address the growing challenges of urbanisation at the local, national and regional levels. Continue reading

The value of sharing experiences in urban redevelopment

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By Dr. Koki Hirota, Chief Economist, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
1st International Economic Forum on Asia
Register today to attend on 14 April 2017!


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A future image of the Cebu metropolitan area

Catastrophic floods and earthquakes have hit Asian cities such as Manila, Bangkok or Kathmandu in recent years more than ever before. Air pollution in Delhi, Dhaka or Beijing has turned more and more dangerous, threatening the lives of residents. All this as the international community agreed on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Responding to this call, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) decided to allocate 35% of its financial co-operation programme last year to urban development.

Why? Urbanisation in developing countries is happening fast. Ten mega cities of over 10 million people existed in 1990; that number increased to 28 in 2014 and is projected to reach 41 in 2025 (UN [2014]). Urban areas in Shanghai expanded by 8.1% annually between 2000 and 2010 and by 4.0% in Jakarta. Tokyo, in comparison, expanded by 0.2% (World Bank [2015]). Dhaka became a mega city in just 40 years from a population of 1 million. Many other Asian mega cities took only 50 to 70 years to reach that level, which is a much shorter time than what advanced economies experienced.

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Financing the SDGs in cities: Innovative new approaches

By Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist on Development Finance, Bureau for Programme and Policy Support, United Nations Development Programme

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Mumbai is among a growing number of cities exploring green bonds as an option for financing sustainable urban development.

 “Cities are major drivers of the global economy. Today, cities occupy only 2% of total land but account for 70% of GDP.” (Habitat III, 2016)

Many of the investments needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will take place at the sub-national level and be led by local authorities, especially in urban areas. Massive public and private investments will be needed to improve access to sustainable urban services and infrastructure, to improve cities’ resilience to climate change and shocks, and to prepare them to host 2.5 billion new residents over the next three decades, particularly in developing countries.  If city authorities can meet these challenges head-on, the sustainable development dividends could be immense. This reality underscores the need to recognise and strengthen the capacities of local authorities as major actors in promoting sustainable development.
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