Smart City Expo: Reaching Sustainable Development Goals Through Technology

Smart City Expo 2019 Event

It’s been four years since a series of global objectives were raised to eradicate poverty, to protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. The goal is to reach them in 2030; but what actions have taken place so far ? Yesterday at the Smart City Expo – in a session moderated by our CPO, Harry Wilson – the ONU-Habitat together with Citibeats, Colab and the Municipality of Teresina, Brazil showed the projects that they have been developing to monitor the implementation of the SDG’s progress thanks to innovative tools and data virtualization.

At the session Laura Kirchner, Consulting Project Manager of Citibeats, cited how the Artificial Intelligence platform has become the voice of the citizens of 22 capital cities in Iberoamerica (Latin America, Spain, Portugal and Andorra).

In the first stage of the study over one million tweets were collected over a period of six months, between March and August 2019. From the text data received through the social network, Artificial Intelligence identified the problems the residents of each place mentioned and categorized them by SDG function to create a semantic map.

For example, if we talk about Gender Equality, the general concepts the platform defines for this SDG are: “chauvinist, feminist and sexist” at the first level.

For Argentina, the keywords placed at the center of the semantic map are related to “feminicide”, “#wewantusalive”, “notoneless”, “legal abortion” and “domestic violence.” While in Madrid, the platform shows those general concepts have more to do with “La Manada”, “justice”, “Serrano”, “womensstrike”, “pay gap” and “equal salaries.” This means that – although the same problem is shared between the countries around the same SDG – the results shown by the platform reveal specific demands of a given society.

While in Lima people are worried about environmental pollution or traffic, in Barcelona they are requesting more bicycle lanes and more sustainable mobility. They are different issues of the various places but they all belong to ODS 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities".

Laura Kirchner, Consulting Project Manager Citibeats
Impact Report 2019

Impact report

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She also said that is important to keep in mind that the voices of the citizens are the best sensors of social problems. If governments, cities and the United Nations are aware of citizens’ problems in real time, they will be able to react and respond quickly to the challenges posed by the SDGs.

Another case presented was the “Query of Sustainable Cities and Communities” in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru by ONU-Habitat and the startup, Colab. Gustavo Maia, the CEO of Colab, shared details about how the citizen-to-government participation platform offers a social network for citizens which focuses on the notification of problems, suggestions for urban improvement and evaluations of public services, as well as participation in the decision-making process.

The dialogue was implemented on this new channel of civic participation in more than 800 cities varying from 300,000 to more than 12 million people and showed the results acquired between October 2018 and January 2019.

There was also Gabriela Uchoa, Special Coordinator of the 2030 Agenda, who told the story of how in Teresina, Brazil, 264 actions have been taken to reach the objectives set by the SDG. Out of that total, 126 actions are in process (47.5%), 90 actions are completed (32.2%) and 48 are about to begin (18.3%).

 In the session, Beatriz Gonzalez, a ONU-Habitat representative, expressed that – regarding the case studies – the language issue has been one of the challenges when trying to recognize the comparisons between the realities of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, just as an example. Furthermore, she pointed out the great differences that exist when doing a local and a national study and the implications this entails. While for Ochoa, it was challenging to present innovative strategies based on technological tools to the government at the time.

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