How technology is playing a role in smarter, safer cities

Mon, 2013-03-25 16:30 -- Liz Enbysk

The executive director of UN Women told a forum on cities against poverty that technology is significantly supporting initiatives to make cities safer places. And she brought some issues to the discussion not often heard in smart cities discussions: women's participation and equal rights.

Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women, recently told the audience at the 8th Forum World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty that technology is a fundamental element in creating safer, smarter cities.

While addressing the UN Women's Global Safe Cities Initiative, she said "We know that smart cities recognize that women's equal participation, equal opportunities and equal rights are essential to eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development" – and that technology has a major role in the UN effort, now in 21 cities worldwide.

While women's empowerment and personal safety issues may at first glance seem unusual in smart cities dialogues, Bachelet would argue otherwise.

She went on to say "A targeted and effective response requires local diagnostics. To make cities safer we place a strong emphasis on taking an evidence-based approach, and taking advantage of technologies that enhance data collection, monitoring and evaluation. We know that smart cities use technology for social innovation. And we know it is smart to provide concrete evidence to authorities to take responsive action."

And that, she noted, is why UN Women is working with Microsoft to identify ways to use mobile technology better to "document, prevent and respond to violence, especially sexual harassment and violence in public spaces."

As an example, she pointed out Rio de Janeiro where communities are taking advantage of mapping technologies to identify safety risks such as lack of lighting, faulty infrastructure and services and obstructed walking routes in 10 of the city's high-risk slums – and forwarding the information to local authorities who are working on solutions.

The Safe Cities initiative is, she said, intended to encourage participation by all residents – women, men and youth – to make cities safer and to ensure they stay that way.

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