Most would agree that technology solutions exist for most every seemingly intractable problem. Yet often our greatest challenge is to match the problem with the solution. In my various “technology for development” and trade promotion roles with the United Nations and World Bank, it is so clearly evident that government leaders know what problems they need to solve, but are simply unaware of the technology solutions available to them. Even the most highly informed development experts are not aware of the technologies being produced for their particular area of expertise, and technology firms are often unaware of the vast and specific challenges developing countries face.
Thus, it is critical to first identify specific, not general challenges in areas such as access to capital, business creation, countrywide connectivity, education and training, employment, environmental protection, government administration, health, housing, hunger, infrastructure, pollution, population growth, trade expansion, waste, water scarcity, and women’s empowerment. These are but a fraction of problems facing the developing world.
Earlier this month, the World Bank hosted a Smart Cities for All workshop in Washington, DC which convened experts from the United Nations, academia, government agencies, non-profits and industry. The purpose of the workshop was to share insights and experiences of equipping cities with the tools for intelligent growth. Additionally, the forum established a public-private partnership for collaboration in pursuit of shared goals for global sustainability. But what does it mean to be a “smart city”? Is this distinction only reserved for cities starting from scratch? Can an established city boost its IQ?
First, we must take a step back to reflect upon what it means to be a “smart city.” While there is no official definition, many have contributed to this debate. Industry leaders, such as Seimens and IBM, believe that stronger use of technology and data will enable government leaders to make better informed decisions. Whereas others, including the Sustainable Cities Blog’s very own Dan Hoornweg, consider the social aspects as a component of what it means to be a smart city. In his blog, “Smart Cities for Dummies,” published last November, Dan contends: “At its core a smart city is a welcoming, inclusive city, an open city. By being forthright with citizens, with clear accountability, integrity, and fair and honest measures of progress, cities get smarter.” Though I agree with both the data-driven and socially-conscious approaches, I’d like to propose my own definition of a smart city.
Thousands of Basotho joined HM King Letsie III last Friday at the inauguration of a state-of-the-art hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The new hospital, together with its three filter clinics, is bringing modern, high-quality health care to about half a million people—or a quarter of Lesotho’s population—living in Maseru district, and also serving the country as a revamped national referral and teaching hospital.
Prime Minister Mosisili reminded the audience of Lesotho’s history as a British protectorate. “The protectors gave the country its first national hospital in 1957 and named it Queen Elizabeth II after their Queen,” the PM said. “The new hospital is ours and we named it after our Queen, ’Mamohato.”
Why is this hospital so important? It symbolizes a fundamental change in publicly-funded health services in Lesotho. The transformation in the country's health sector is supported by a unique partnership between the government and the private sector that is truly exciting as Africa looks for ways to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to saving mothers and children and fighting HIV/AIDS.
Representatives of chambers of commerce and private sector promotion agencies from developing countries expressed their concerns about where the new sources of growth would come from in future years, at a meeting of the World Bank Group's Private Sector Liaison Officers held in Istanbul on October 5.
A lively discussion between the PSLOs and MIGA management covered subjects relating to foreign direct investment into emerging economies, as well as investments by emerging economies into other emerging economies ("South-South" investment).
There is a real concern about how the infrastructure gap in developing countries will be filled following the crisis, given the new scarcity of private funds for public-private partnerships.
With the release of US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's latest plan to clear bad loans off the books of troubled banks in the US, the fact that the elaborate auction is essentially a public-private partnership has flown under the radar amidst celebrations and critiques.