The Capacity Development Unit of UN-Habitat organized the side event “Using innovation and mobile phone technology to track progress and monitoring the implementation of the SDGs globally” within the confines of the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, on 20 November 2019.
Around fifty participants attended the event which was comprised of four presentations, including (1) UN-Habitat initiatives on data collection, (2) Sustainable Cities and Communities Consultation in Latin America, which forms part of the greater project Accountability Systems for Measuring, Monitoring and Reporting on Sustainable City Policies, the (3) Citibeats initiative held in 22 cities in Iberoamerica (Latin America, Spain, Portugal and Andorra) and (4) the public sector perspective on SDG mapping.
The session was moderated and facilitated by Harry Wilson, Chief Product Officer of Citibeats.
The aim of the side-event was fourfold:
a. to highlight the innovative use of mobile phone apps in driving citizen engagement in several countries;
b. to discuss the role of technology and innovation in enhancing collection of monitoring data to track the implementation of SDG 11and the New Urban Agenda;
c. to show how innovative processes with limited resources can be optimized to scale up its outreach;
d. to discuss the challenges and lessons of how data positively feed into localizing urban development policies and programmes.
The first session was held by Beatriz González Mendoza, representative of UN-Habitat, who explained the efforts the Agency is making in data collection and the different initiatives that are under way. Beatriz presented initiatives such as the City Prosperity Initiative (CPI), the Global Urban Observatory and the UN-Habitat urban indicators database, available from mid-December.
Following this, Gustavo Maia, CEO of Colab, presented how a citizen participation platform can strengthen communication among citizens and local authorities to improve the quality of urban life and to facilitate decision-making processes. He also introduced the Sustainable Cities and Communities Consultation in Brazil. Colab is a Brazil-based tech start-up and citizen-to-government engagement platform that developed the mobile application for the consultation in Brazil.
The citizen consultation is an innovative and participatory tool launched nation-wide for a second consecutive year in Brazil. The consultation involves a survey on the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG 11) and capacity building and ensures dialogue between the citizens, civil society organizations and local governments. The data gathered from the consultation is later cross referenced with official data from other national and international institutions to track the status of cities with regards to their progress towards the achievement of SDG 11 and other related SDGs.
As Gustavo Maia once highlighted, “the quest for the citizens’ vision and the work on it based on data will help governments make better choices and, consequently, be more innovative and collaborative. The Sustainable Cities Consultation joins what is fundamental to our country [Brazil] today: concern for development and improvement, sustainability as a “mindset” that should be integrated into any and all actions, and citizen participation, which should be the center of the process.”
In the second half of the event, Laura Kirchner the Consulting Project Manager of Citibeats, presented how the Artificial Intelligence platform has become the voice of the citizens 22 cities in Iberoamerica. She also unveiled the importance of social networks and how data can be extracted through citizens’ publications. She highlighted that in the first stage of the study, over one million tweets have been collected over six months, between March and August 2019.
To conclude the event, Gabriela Uchoa, Special Coordinator of the 2030 Agenda, complemented the session by providing the public sector perspective and presenting how local governments can map the SDGs to base their policies on initiatives that will assist in monitoring and reporting on the Agenda 2030.