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New Apps Make Driving and Travelling in Egypt Easier, Safer

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Mobile phones are ubiquitous across the global South. They have spawned whole new business opportunities and changed the way people solve problems and find solutions.

Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650 million mobile phone subscribers, more than the United States and the European Union (World Bank).  A recent World Bank report estimated mobile phones led directly to the creation of 5 million jobs in Africa in 2012, contributing to seven per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Mobile phones have also led to contests and challenges, set up to spark further innovation in this area and spur the development of so-called “apps”, or applications, to run on these electronic devices.

These prizes encourage and reward useful innovation that directly tackles the problems and challenges of the South.

In Cairo, Egypt – a city notorious for some of the worst traffic congestion in the world – many have been trying to find smart solutions to the gridlock. The World Bank says in its Cairo Traffic Congestion Study that the annual cost of congestion in Cairo is estimated at up to US $8 billion. This is four per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) – four times the impact on national GDP experienced by other comparable large cities. The study found that at least 1,000 Cairo residents die each year in traffic-related accidents, more than half of them pedestrians. And rapid growth in the city is making it ever-harder to get on top of the problem.

Rising traffic congestion is a problem around the world. In the United States, traffic jumped 236 per cent as the population grew by 20 per cent between 1982 and 2001 (IBM).

The IBM Commuter Pain Study conducted in 2011, ranking the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 international cities, found that the commute in Beijing is four times more painful than the commute in Los Angeles or New York, and seven times more painful than the commute in Stockholm.

Commuter pain leads to productivity loss as people lose time stuck in traffic and fuel is wasted as engines idle in traffic jams – not to mention damage to the environment from the increased pollution.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 95 per cent of congestion growth in the coming years will be in developing countries. Even in developed countries like the United States, in 2000, the average driver experienced 27 hours of delays (up seven hours from 1980) (MIT Press). This ballooned to 136 hours in Los Angeles.

Developing countries are seeing vehicle numbers rise by between 10 and 30 per cent per year (World Bank). In economic hotspots, growth is even faster.

The Cairo Transport App Challenge (https://www.facebook.com/CairoTransportAppChallenge) is a contest aimed at taming the city’s traffic chaos. It is hosted by the Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) (http://www.tiec.gov.eg/en-us/Pages/default.aspx) and is organized by the World Bank in collaboration with others.

The contest’s press release says it aims to connect transport and urban development experts with volunteer technology communities to build “applications to address pressing transport challenges in Cairo through leveraging the new information and communication technologies (ICT) – such as mobile phones, smartphones and GPS-enabled devices – as well as the talent of Egyptian software developers and innovators.”

The first winner of the US $3,000 in prize money is a mobile phone app that helps drivers get help on the road and with car maintenance.

Users can use the Belya app to find the best routes, and to get help if their vehicle breaks down. The app is essentially a portable virtual car mechanic. It uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to locate service centres, which are then contacted when somebody needs help. The app gives details to the repair shop on what is wrong, the date and time.

“It is also linked to the General Traffic Administration, to provide quick and regular updates of the traffic situation,” according to a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which awarded the prize.

The content’s second prize was won by E-mokhalfa (http://www.emokhalfa.com/emokhalfa/),which helps communities create safer roads by using peer pressure to make drivers behave better. Third place went to the app called “Where is my bus?” (https://twitter.com/AutobeesyFeen). It helps passengers find bus stations, routes, journey times and all mass transport options on their mobile phones.

Published: February 2013

Resources

1) A guide to making mobile phone apps: Here are some resources to building your own phone app online or through a provider. Website:http://www.brandignity.com/2011/03/building-mobile-iphone-phone-app-onlin/

2) Android: Android is the world’s most popular mobile platform. Website: android.com

3) Arab Republic of Egypt, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Website: http://www.mcit.gov.eg/

4) IBM Smart Traffic: IBM Intelligent Transportation, a compliment to the Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, enables advanced analysis of the many factors that make up traffic flow, and gives planners and responders a comprehensive look at the state of their city’s roadways on ground level. Website:http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/eg/en/traffic_congestion/ideas/index.html

5) Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology. Website:http://www.scribd.com/doc/95410448/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1-Mobile-Phones-and-Information-Technology

Southern Innovator logo

London Edit

31 July 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Popular Chinese Social Media Chase New Markets

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

China has a vast and growing market for the Internet and mobile devices. Over the past decade that market has been largely confined to China –  most businesses have had enough domestic demand and opportunities inside the country to keep them busy.

But now companies in China’s dynamic Internet and mobile sector are seeking out new markets outside the country. Both online shopping service Alibaba (alibaba.com) and Weibo (weibo.com), the Chinese version of Twitter (twitter.com), are seeking to list on the New York Stock Exchange. The excitement this news has generated shows how many people want to get a piece of the large Chinese market for technology, social networks and online shopping. It is also sending a chill through America’s Silicon Valley – home to the country’s innovative high technology sector – that they are missing out on China’s fast-growing marketplace. Many American services are banned from operating in China. Even more worrying for Silicon Valley, these home-grown Chinese companies, with the market sewn up at home, are now set to compete globally for customers using their increasingly deep pockets.

One example is Tencent (http://www.tencent.com/en-us/index.shtml), owner of popular Chinese social messaging application (app) Weixin (weixin.qq.com), known as WeChat (wechat.com) outside China. Used on mobile phones and smartphones, Weixin has gained 300 million users in just three years, becoming the dominant social messaging service in the world’s largest smartphone market. Its has been so successful that many rivals are trying to chip away at its customer base.

Weixin, pronounced way-shin, allows smartphone users to send messages and share news, photos, videos and web links with friends. One of its selling points is its claim to not store messages on its servers.

Building on its success in social networking in China, it is looking to expand in other markets, including Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. It also wants to grow its offerings in online payment and e-commerce.

One factor in Weixin’s success is the ability to send messages by recording a voice message rather than just typing in characters: very useful for non-Latin script users, and especially for Chinese-language users, who use thousands of characters in everyday communication.

One ambitious forecast claims Weixin could reach 400 million users and make US $500 million revenue within a year.

Cosmetics marketer Jenny Zhao, who uses an iPhone 5, told The New York Times: “I’m probably on Weixin six hours a day. A lot of what I do revolves around it.”

“I use Weixin every day,” said Zhang Shoufeng, a food and drinks seller. “My friends are on it and my boss is on it. We are talking about where to eat, where to hang out and where to meet for company conferences. This is how we communicate.”

Analysts believe Weixin has benefitted from not having to compete with banned-in-China American company Facebook (facebook.com).

“Even if Facebook had permission, it’s probably too late,” said Wang Xiaofeng, an analyst at Forrester Research. “Weixin has all the functionality of Facebook and Twitter, and Chinese have already gotten used to it.”

Tencent is an example of a wider trend: As Chinese companies and offerings have become stronger, wealthier and more innovative, they increasingly look to build their customer base outside China.

Founded in November, 1998, Tencent, Inc. has grown into China’s largest and most used Internet service portal. Its most popular services include QQ (QQ Instant Messenger), WeChat, QQ.com, QQ Games, Qzone, 3g.QQ.com, SoSo, PaiPai and Tenpay, as well as Weixin.

The company claims to put innovation at the heart of its business, with more than half of its employees devoted to research and development. The Tencent Research Institute, established in 2007 with RMB 100 million (US $16 million), calls itself “China’s first Internet research institute, with campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.” It has patents for technologies it has developed for instant messaging, e-commerce, online payment services, search, information security, and gaming.

Tencent was driven to innovate by a fear it could quickly become irrelevant in the information technology space. Weixin is also pioneering ways to book taxis, hotels and airline flights through the service and even ways to control home appliances.

“Chinese Internet companies are no longer behind,” said William Bao Bean, a managing director at the venture capital firm SingTel Innov8 (http://innov8.singtel.com/). “Now in some areas, they’re leading the way.”

Published: April 2014

Resources

1) Weibo: Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging (weibo) website. Akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30 per cent of Internet users, with a market penetration similar to what Twitter has established in the USA. Website: weibo.com

2) Laiwang: A variation on the WeChat service, its biggest competitor. Website: laiwang.com

3) WhatsApp: WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. Website: whatsapp.com

4) Southern Innovator Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology: Pioneering and innovative ways to deploy mobile phones and information technology to tackle poverty. Website: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1 and here: http://tinyurl.com/q6bfnpz

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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New Cities Offering Solutions for Growing Urban Populations

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, new cities are being dreamed up by architects, city planners and governments, or are already under construction. Two new urban areas being built offer lessons for others in the global South. They both deploy intelligent solutions to the combined demands of urbanization, growing populations and rising expectations.

An eco city in China and a smart city in the Republic of Korea are tackling today’s – and tomorrow’s – challenges.

A joint initiative between China and Singapore, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project (tianjinecocity.gov.sg) – located on reclaimed land some 45 kilometres from the booming Chinese city of Tianjin and 150 kilometres from Beijing – is an attempt to create a replicable model for other cities in China and the global South. Already well underway, with the first phase of construction nearly complete, the Eco-City’s hallmarks include encouraging walking, reducing reliance on private vehicles and aiming to generate 20 per cent of the city’s energy from renewable sources. It is run from the Chinese end by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co., Ltd and in Singapore by the Keppel Group.

It is located 10 kilometres from the Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area (TEDA), a fast-growing high-tech business hub in its own right.

Called an “integrated work, live, play and learn environment,” it is a mix of public and private housing based on the highly successful model developed in Singapore.

The concept of an “eco city” was first raised by Richard Register in his 1987 book Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future. It was to be a place that minimizes inputs of energy, water, and food and outputs of waste heat, air pollution, carbon dioxide, methane and water pollution. Like smart cities, eco cities are taking shape in various forms around the world. Some are applying the concept and principles of an eco city to an existing place, while others are being built from scratch.

The Tianjin Eco-City is a mix of elements designed to make it sustainable in the long-term. It includes an “EcoValley” running through the development as its centrepiece green space to encourage walking and cycling between the major centres of the city. It has the usual urban services – from schools to shops and restaurants – but also, critically, a growing range of business parks to support employment.

Unlike green initiatives in wealthy, developed countries, it is hoped the Tianjin Eco-City will prove a more relevant model for the global South. It has factored in the need to make an eco city pay its way and generate new business and innovations. It is trying to address the pressing urgency of China’s growing population and rapid urbanization, while balancing people’s expectations of rising living standards. As in other countries in the global South, people aspire to a higher standard of living and this needs to be taken into consideration when planning eco cities.

Ho Tong Yen, Chief Executive Officer of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, says its aim is “sustainable development packaged in a way that is uniquely Asian.”

He says the project is intended to be “practical, replicable and scalable.”

“Practical at its core is building something that the market can support, something that is affordable given the economic development of the region,” he said. “The idea is that this model must be one that is replicable and scalable in other parts of China. Now, strictly speaking, there is no reason it needs to be just for China – it really might be replicable in other developing countries as well. Our starting point, however, is to find a model that might work for China.

“I think it is still a work in progress – a bold experiment – and it is a long-term experiment. The idea is to create an eco city that can support a population of 350,000 over a 10 to 15 year horizon.

“In some ways it is a city that does not look all that much different from other Chinese cities. But if you look at the subtleties – the building orientation, the renewable energy, the transit oriented developments, the walkability concepts – these are all the elements we built into this project.

“An eco city is not necessarily a science-fiction-like concept; it is something that is very real, very do-able. It looks a lot like a normal city – it is not a special city in a glass dome.”

The explosion in information technologies in the past decade has re-shaped the way cities can be planned, run and developed. The connectivity brought about by now-ubiquitous electronic devices such as mobile phones and the ever-expanding information networks connected by fibre optic cables is giving rise to so-called “smart cities.” These urban areas draw on information technologies to use resources more efficiently and reduce waste, while – it is hoped – better serving the needs of residents. Real-time information can be gleaned to monitor energy use, or traffic congestion, or crime, while constant online connectivity enables the efficient delivery of a multitude of services to residents.

Smart cities vary in their scope and ambition. Some are existing urban areas given a modern upgrade, while others, such as the Songdo International Business District (IBD) (songdoibd.com) smart city in the Republic of Korea, are planned and built from scratch.

Built on 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of reclaimed land from the Yellow Sea in Incheon, Songdo International Business District is being built by Gale International and POSCO E&C of Korea. It is considered one of the largest public/private real estate ventures in the world. Due to be completed in 2017, it will be home to 65,000 people (22,000 currently live there), while 300,000 people will commute in daily to work. Fifteen years in the making and costing over US $35 billion, it is called a “synergistic city” because it contains all the elements necessary for people to live a high-quality life.

Currently 50 percent complete, Songdo IBD is considered one of Asia’s largest green developments and a world leader in meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) (https://new.usgbc.org/leed) standards for green buildings. For example, it has the first LEED-certified hotel in Korea, the Sheraton Incheon. These high green standards have led to the United Nations Green Climate Fund Secretariat establishing its headquarters in Songdo, with a slated opening in 2013.

Songdo is “smart” because information technology connects all its systems – residences, buildings, offices, schools, hospitals, hospitality and retail outlets. This includes more than 10,000 Cisco TelePresence units (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps7060/index.html)– menu-driven video screens – being installed in the residences to connect them to all the services available in Songdo.

It also benefits from proximity to IncheonInternationalAirport – consistently voted one of the best in the world – giving residents quick access to other Asian cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. This connection between urban development and a highly connected airport is being called an “aerotropolis.”

Songdo smart city is just one part of a massive regional development plan, using reclaimed land from the sea and marshlands. The residential and business developments are all being linked to IncheonInternationalAirport, which is being positioned as a transport hub and gateway to Northeast Asia – it boasts of being a three-and-a-half hour flight to one-third of the world’s population. The idea is to create a thriving international business hub that is a short flight away from Asia’s booming and fast-growing economic centres.

“The beauty is you are doing everything from scratch – you are using newer building technology, newer systems,” said Scott Summers, Vice President of Foreign Investment for developers Gale International Korea LLC.

“You are not going into a city and ripping up old things and then put in new systems. You have a greater opportunity to install this technology, the backbone (information technology from Cisco), to allow these services and connectivity to work properly because you are laying wires in buildings from the get-go rather than going in afterwards.”

Summers believes it is the high-tech component of Songdo that will set it apart from other cities in the future. Songdo is being built with a combination of innovative sustainable development technologies and the latest in information technologies provided by Cisco.

“That is one of the reasons we are pushing this technology, because it is how a city operates that is important,” Summers said.

“The operation of a city, to do it well, is going to improve the success of it. (To) embed into the development of the city some of the technologies of sustainable development – to put in the pneumatic waste system, grey water system, the co-generation – all of those things are much easier to do on raw land.”

Sojeong Sylvia Sohn, owner of Songdo’s Kyu, a Korean fusion cuisine restaurant, was attracted to Songdo and is banking on its future growth.

Sohn said Seoul’s “existing commercial area was just saturated.”

“Songdo International City in Incheon is the future for the region and early business tenants are coming here for investment purposes. It has uncluttered streets and modern buildings, being an international city – this makes it attractive.”

Resources

1) Eco Cities World Summit: The International Ecocity Conference Series brings together the key innovators, decision makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning and development. Website: http://www.ecocityworldsummit.org/

2) Richard Florida: The Creative Class Group is a boutique advisory services firm composed of leading next-generation researchers, academics, and strategists. Website:http://www.creativeclass.com/richard_florida

3) Global Urbanist: The Global Urbanist is an online magazine reviewing urban affairs and urban development issues in cities throughout the developed and developing world. Website: http://globalurbanist.com/

4) UN-Habitat: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Website: http://www.unhabitat.org

5) Eco-Cities: A Planning Guide by Zhifeng Yang. Website: http://tinyurl.com/d26rxdx

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Southern Innovator Issue 4

Eco-cities Up Close

Smart Cities Up Close

Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is about the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

They are the innovators.

Follow the magazine on Twitter @SouthSouth1. 

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

If you would like hard copies of the magazine for distribution, then please contact the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)(https://www.unsouthsouth.org/2014/12/25/southern-innovator-magazine/).

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021