“A political anthropologist, she uses complex-systems tools to analyze three different databases: Mongolians’ changing ideas on democracy and capitalism, the emergence of early states all over the world, and 19-20th century Cozumel.”
The Santa Fe Institute “is the world’s leading research center for complex systems science.”
From 1999, I worked as a consultant for United Nations (UN) missions in Africa, Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, for USAID Mongolia and for a UK-based international development consultancy.
Was the United Nations being effective and reflecting the potential for change in the mobile and information technology age? What needed to change? Who were the policy innovators?
This work included overseeing various digital media projects, including the strategic re-development of the UN Ukraine web portal, aiding in the rolling out of the media campaign for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Mongolia, including the first use of infographics in the Mongolia UN mission, advising on strategies for youth engagement in development goals in South Africa, and support to the UN mission in Turkmenistan as it finalised its United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) with the government and also work with UNICEF there. What I learned during this period proved crucial to the insights and thinking reflected in two highly influential United Nations publications, e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, and Southern Innovator magazine (developed in 2010).
This period was particularly advantageous because I had a front-row seat to the unfolding digital and mobile information technology revolution sweeping across the emerging markets and the global South. I also had insight into what worked and didn’t in international development as well as the UN system. I also learned a great deal about development challenges first-hand in highly varied countries, how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were actually being rolled out, and met amazing people who were challenging existing precepts on how to do development. All of this work proved very useful later on.
I have either travelled to, or worked and lived, in many countries, enhancing my global perspective and affording me a valuable trove of knowledge that has in turn informed my work in international development. I have always paid attention to the level of development in the country, how it has organized itself, the quality of its design, and how it interacts with other countries for trade and relations. The countries visited to date include: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, Domenica, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadalupe, Haiti, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montseratt, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vatican City. A fascinating mix of countries – some holders of top place on the UN’s Human Development Index – and others where human development is at its worst. Seeing with your own eyes what works and what does not is highly illuminating, while knowing first-hand how human development can be improved is critical for giving informed advice.
1999/2000: USAID Mongolia (design and publicity strategy for business development brochure, US Mongol (Mongolia) Construct and US tour, work with Riverpath Associates in the UK on communications strategies and the drafting of papers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNCTAD, Harvard Institute for International Development, and the preparation of the report and launch strategy for the World Bank’s Task Force on Higher Education.
2000: UN Ukraine: strategic re-development of the UN Ukraine web portal and incorporation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
2004: UN Mongolia (media campaign for MDGs) and UN South Africa (evaluation of youth NGO associated with the University of Pretoria and its projects and providing a strategic marketing plan).
2005: UN Mongolia (media campaign for MDGs) and UN Turkmenistan (finalising its United Nations Development Assistance Framework – UNDAF).
2006: UN Turkmenistan (work with UNICEF).
“I highly recommend Mr. David South as a communications consultant who gets results.” Brian DaRin, Representative/Director, USAID Investment & Business Development Project, Global Technology Network/ International Executive Service Corps-Mongolia, 23 September 1999
working as a communications consultant for UN missions – Ukraine, South Africa, Mongolia, Turkmenistan
redeveloping mission websites, preparing content, reports, advising on communications strategy
working with local designers on new ways to present development data through inforgraphics (2005/2006)
in the course of travel and work, seeing the unfolding impact of the global communications revolution, in particular the rapid roll-out and take-up of mobile technologies, and the urgent need for the UN system to take this on board. Also witnessed firsthand the grassroots solutions revolution brought about by information and mobile technologies and the Internet, which needed to be fully embraced by the UN
A Marketing and e-Marketing Strategy – the New SASVO, Prepared from December 2004 to February 2005 for the Southern African Student Volunteers (University of Pretoria).
Southern Innovator was initially launched in 2011 with the goal of – hopefully – inspiring others (just as we had been so inspired by the innovators we contacted and met). The magazine seeks to profile stories, trends, ideas, innovations and innovators overlooked by other media. The magazine grew from the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) since 2006. A selection of books and papers citing stories from the magazine are featured below to aid researchers, in particular those interested in health and human development and the role of innovators in international development.
“Innovation is critical to growth and development in Africa. In the context of a continent characterized by fast growing economies as well as an array of socioeconomic challenges, such as high levels of poverty and inequality, innovation in Africa must be understood in an encompassing manner. Africa needs to support the emergence of its own Silicon Valleys, but it must also foster the invention and adoption of cleaner technologies that limit respiratory illnesses, deforestation and combat climate change. This book contains a number of analytical case studies that examine the nature and origins of emerging high-end innovation hubs in Africa. These “hubs” or ecosystems are both understudied and little known inside and outside the continent. With this analysis, the book highlights and draws lessons from some of the most promising and successful innovation cases in Africa today, exploring the key factors driving their successful emergence, growth and future prospects. Relevant for scholars, policymakers, and business leaders, the book provides both inspiration and useful policy advice that can inform strategies and concrete measures to speed up the pace of innovation in Africa today.”
“Research on gated communities is moving away from the hard concept of a ‘gated community’ to the more fluid one of urban gating. The latter allows communities to be viewed through a new lens of soft boundaries, modern communication and networks of influence.
The book, written by an international team of experts, builds on the research of Bagaeen and Uduku’s previous edited publication, Gated Communities (Routledge 2010) and relates recent events to trends in urban research, showing how the discussion has moved from privatised to newly collectivised spaces, which have been the focal point for events such as the Occupy London movement and the Arab Spring.
Communities are now more mobilised and connected than ever, and Beyond Gated Communities shows how neighbourhoods can become part of a global network beyond their own gates. With chapters on Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, this is a truly international resource for scholars and students of urban studies interested in this dynamic, growing area of research.”
“The economic, political and social situation in Chile shows a country in transition. Some observers anticipate a broad “reboot” of the nation. While Chile is still seen by many as an example of progress in South America and of developmental potential in the global South, it faces a complex political constellation, particularly in the aftermath of the re-election of Michelle Bachelet. Many wonder how social and institutional innovations can be incepted without interrupting the country’s remarkable success over the past decades.
This book provides an interdisciplinary analysis of Chile’s situation and perspectives. In particular, it addresses the questions:
What is Chile’s real socio-political situation behind the curtains, irrespective of simplifications?
What are the nation’s main opportunities and problems?
What future strategies will be concretely applicable to improve social balance and mitigate ideological divisions?
The result is a provocative examination of a nation in search of identity and its role on the global stage.
Roland Benedikter, Dr., is Research Scholar at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Senior Research Scholar of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Trustee of the Toynbee Prize Foundation Boston and Full Member of the Club of Rome.
Katja Siepmann, MA, is Senior Research Fellow of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Member of the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Lecturer at the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Cultural Sciences of the European University Frankfurt/Oder.
The volume features a Foreword by Ned Strong, Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, and a Preface by Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington D.C., and Former Senior Public Affairs Officer of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America (Santiago, Chile).”
“A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants investigates how the social works in determining health and health inequity. Taking a global perspective, the book shines a light on how experiences of health, illness and health care are shaped by a variety of complex social dynamics. Informed primarily by sociology, the book engages with the WHO’s social determinants of health approach and draws on contributions from history, political economy and policy analysis to examine issues such as class, gender, ethnicity and indigeneity, and the impact they have on health. A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants is a comprehensive resource that provides a new perspective on the influence of social structures on health, and how our understanding of the social can ensure improved health outcomes for people all over the globe. Toni Schofield is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. She specialises in research and teaching in sociology, and public policy and administration.”
New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014)”This book comprises innovative research on the information behavior of various age groups. It also looks at special populations such as ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and users with disabilities. The book presents research and reflections on designing systems that help the new generation cope with a complex knowledge society.
Economy Reports for APEC Economies on demographics, policies & ICT applications for people with Special Needs (Seniors and People with Disabilities), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group, January 2013
The transition to a green economy has reached a crossroads: while multilateral global initiatives have been long-running and complex, the idea of a green economy still seems fragile and achieving it far from certain. In the face of the ravages of the global economic crisis that has raged since 2007/2008, countries are now trying to roll back their green pledges or slow the pace of transition.
This exposes a dilemma: a perception that a green economy is in conflict with economic growth, prosperity and the advance of human development, particularly in developing countries seeking to make rapid gains in reducing poverty and building a middle class, consumer society.
Three things need to be foremost in the minds of those who care about creating a global green economy in the 21st century: innovation in design, in market prices and in business models. I think these three factors will be the deciding elements in whether green technologies are taken up quickly and used by large numbers of people to improve their lives.
The green option needs to always be the more appealing, cheaper option that also improves living standards. Happily, many people are doing this all around the world – you just may not have heard of them yet (unless you are reading Southern Innovator magazine that is).
As editor of the magazine Southern Innovator since 2011, I have had the privilege to meet, interview and see first-hand green economy innovators across the global South and profile them in the magazine. What has stood out for me is this: the ones who have achieved sustainable success have put a great deal of effort into design – how the technology is made, what it looks like and how it is used, how efficiently it is made and distributed – while also thinking through the business case for their work and how to make it appealing to others.
We have tried to apply this thinking to the magazine as well, by using clear and modern design with bright, eye-pleasing colours, and by choosing to use 100 per cent renewable energy (much of it from geothermal sources) for the magazine’s design and layout and to have it printed on paper from sustainable forest sources.
The fourth issue of Southern Innovator (www.southerninnovator.org), on cities and urbanization, launched in October at the Global South-South Development Expo 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. It profiles many practical initiatives and innovators that are currently building green homes, communities and even whole cities. The magazine’s fifth issue will focus on the theme of waste and recycling and hopes to be a one-stop source of inspiration to better use the finite resources of planet earth.
The coming wave of technological innovations aimed at global South cities will dominate civic debates whether people wish it to or not. Already, futuristic, 21st-century cities are being built around Asia from scratch. I had the privilege of visiting a couple of them in 2012 while researching the fourth issue of our magazine, Southern Innovator ( h t t p : / / w w w . s c r i b d . c o m / SouthernInnovator). Each city had a different focus for its construction – one was seeking to be an “eco-city” and the other one called itself a “smart city,” focused on becoming a regional business and technology hub. Both aimed to use the latest information technologies to make the way Asian cities operate on a day-to-day basis smarter – and greener.
Large information technology companies – including India’s Infosys (infosys.com) – have their sights set on selling all sorts of technological solutions to common problems of urban living. This aspiring revolution is built on two foundations: One is the Internet of Things – in which everyday objects are connected to the Internet via microchips. The other is Big Data, the vast quantities of data being generated by all the mobile phones and other electronic devices people use these days.
Much of this new technology will be manufactured in Asia, and not just that – it will also be developed and designed in Asia, often to meet the challenges of urban Asia.
By their nature, cities are fluid places. People come and go for work and pleasure, and successful cities are magnets for people of all backgrounds seeking new opportunities. This fluidity puts stress on cities and leads to the constant complaints familiar to any urban dweller – inadequate transport, traffic jams, air pollution, poor housing, and a high cost of living.
If handled well and with imagination, new information technologies can ensure Asian cities do more than pay lip service to aspirations to improve human development. They can make cities resilient places – able to bounce back from disasters, whether man made or natural.
During the late 1990s, I saw first-hand the pressures placed on one Asian city, Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. The country endured the worst peacetime economic collapse since World War II while confronting the wrenching social and economic stresses of switching from a command economy during Communism to a free-market democracy. The city’s population grew quickly as rural economies collapsed and poverty shot upwards. I can only imagine now how the response could have been different with the technologies available today.
“A lot of social initiatives based on the right to the city are coming from these ‘new cities of the South,’” Mathivet said. “The book highlights original social initiatives: protests and organizing of the urban poor, such as the pavement dwellers’ movements in Mumbai where people with nothing, living on the pavements of a very big city, organise themselves to struggle for their collective rights, just as the park dwellers did in Osaka.”
Recently, an Indian restaurant uploaded to the Internet a video of what it claimed to be the first drone delivering a pizza in an Indian city. While this may or may not be a practical solution to traffic congestion, the subsequent negative fallout – angry police and public officials – from this use of new technology highlights the promise and perils of innovating in the real world of Asian cities (http:/ /www.bbc.co.uk/news/ b l o g s – n e w s – f r o m – elsewhere-27537120).
Micro electronics are becoming cheaper and more powerful by the month. Small businesses armed with a only laptop computer, access to the Internet and/or mobile phone networks, and cloud computing services, can offer very powerful business and public services solutions. And sharing solutions across the global South via information technologies has never been easier.
The U.S. Pentagon published various reports and studies in the 2000s forecasting a dark future for cities in the global South. As author Mike Davis revealed in his seminal work, Planet of Slums (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obido/ASIN/1844670228/nationbooks08), the Pentagon saw the developing world’s cities as the “battlespace of the twenty-first century.” It imagined sprawling, crime ridden cities full of poverty and slums and needing tiny drones and robots darting back and forth, keeping an eye on everything and suppressing unrest. This threat-based view of future cities is one to be avoided. It is possible, through the right application of quick solutions to the challenges that arise as cities grow, to turn to cooperation across the cities of the global South to avoid this pessimistic fate.
Fast-growing cities and urban areas in the global South can be vulnerable because they lack the web of structures and institutions that enable more long-established cities to mitigate risks and, when a disaster does strike, to bounce back quickly. But thanks to many new technologies, and some smart new thinking, it is possible to bring resilience to even the poorest and most deprived urban communities.
The essence of resilience is to build into plans and daily activities a community’s ability to weather any disaster, small or large. All cities, rich or poor, can experience a disaster of some sort, be it weather, civil unrest, war, earthquakes, shortages, or economic, financial and health crises. New technologies make it possible for all cities, no matter how poor and overcrowded, to build in urban resilience. The ubiquity of mobile phones introduces a powerful city and urban planning tool. Mapping chaotic and unplanned areas is already underway in many cities of the global South (in Brazil and Kenya for example (http://tinyurl.com/qgba8kb).
Impressively, innovators in the South are using affordable microelectronics in the form of mobile phones and laptops to gather data and map it. This computing capability was once the sole domain of big information technology companies such as IBM. Now, a single laptop computer combined with a smartphone equipped with the right software can manage a large urban area, a task that once required rooms full of computers. The data can then be used to manage growth today and re-build after a disaster. Any excuse not to be resilient has been wiped out with this technological leap.
But how to deal with the common reality of feeling overwhelmed by the many obstacles to rational planning and building for urban growth in the South? Innovators have stepped in to take matters into their own hands with simple construction technologies as the solution. One example is the Moladi system of recycled plastic moulds (moladi.net). Anybody can master this simple building technique, as the mortar-filled moulds are designed to fit easily together to construct an earthquake-resistant, beautiful home.
This approach has the advantage of bypassing the failings of authorities to enforce building codes and standards in poor, urban communities, creating safer places to live and preventing the growth of unregulated shanty towns at risk to fire and earthquakes.
Others have found social ways to organize people, even in the most desperate of conditions, providing services and laying down the groundwork for an upgrading of an urban area to improve living conditions and long-term opportunities. The concept of ‘cities for all’ has inspired many to re-energize civic organizations and networking in poor areas to ensure they are not left out of economic growth. In Colombia, a famous example of this is the escalator in the city of Medellin, which connects a hillside slum to the centre of the city, opening up economic opportunities to all (http://tinyurl.com/nm47d3u).
Still more exciting, new technologies are in the works to simplify construction of major infrastructure and new buildings. A future city will be able to gather extensive data on an expanding urban area, make detailed development plans with architects and engineers, and then have robots and 3D fabricating machines quickly lay down infrastructure and erect buildings. Sounds far-fetched? Well, in China one company recently used a 3D machine to make 10 houses in a single day (http://www.yhbm.com/index.aspx).
An infographic from Southern Innovator’s fourth issue (http:// tinyurl.com/m9vfwur) shows 10 ways any urban area – either planned or unplanned – can build in resilience. All are proven approaches from cities in the global South.
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