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Sustainable Communities

Mapping and measuring urban places: Are we there yet? (Part 1/2)

David Mason's picture
Source: Deuskar, C., and Stewart B.. 2016. “Measuring global urbanization using a standard definition of urban areas: Analysis of preliminary results” World Bank
This satellite image shows Sao Paolo's estimated “urban areas” based on a WorldPop gridded population layer. Areas in yellow are areas with at least 300 people per km2 and a known settlement size of 5,000 people. Red areas represent a population density threshold of at least 1,500 people per km2 and a known settlement size of 50,000 people.
There remains a surprising amount of disagreement over precisely what “urban” means despite the ubiquity of the term in our work. Are urban areas defined by a certain amount of artificial land cover such as permanent buildings and roads? Or are they more accurately described as spatially concentrated populations? The answer often depends on what country you are in, as their administrative definitions of urban areas can vary widely across and between these two dimensions.
 
Without a globally consistent measure of urban areas, it can be difficult to track changes in built-up areas (land surface coverage comprised of buildings and roads) and population growth across time and space. This impacts how policymakers may understand and prioritize the challenges cities face and what investments or reforms may be needed. In a new paper, “Bright Lights, Big Cities: a Review of Research and Findings on Global Urban Expansion,” I provide a brief introduction to some of the current approaches for measuring urban expansion and review the comparative findings of some recent studies.
The UN’s World Urbanization Prospects (WUP), perhaps the most comprehensive and widely cited measure of urbanization across the world, draws from a compilation of country-level population totals based on administrative definitions. A key weakness with this set is that since each country defines “urban” differently, it is difficult to accurately compare one country’s urbanization to another, as well as to estimate the urban population of a group of countries or the world itself. Recent work has provided more sophisticated ways to measure urban growth and expansion using both satellite map data and careful application of population data.

Between 2 Geeks: Episode 4 - What can you measure with cellphone metadata?

Andrew Whitby's picture

Globally, there are over 98 mobile subscriptions per 100 people, so the chances are, you have a cell phone. Now look at your recent calls, both sent and received: Who do you call most often? Who calls you the most? Do you send, or receive more calls? All this is cell phone metadata: not the content of the calls, but ancillary information, the “who, where and when”.

It’s information that can reveal a lot about you. Your cellphone carrier already uses it to bill you, and may also be using it to target marketing or special offers at you. And with appropriate privacy protections, it can offer researchers a similar opportunity. In this week’s episode of Between 2 Geeks we ask how cellphone metadata (“call detail records”) can help researchers understand entire societies.

The next frontier for social safety nets

Michal Rutkowski's picture
There has been a doubling in the number of developing countries that provide social safety programs to their citizens. What is causing this shift? Photo: Mohammad Al-Arief/World Bank

Social safety nets – predictable cash grants to poor households often in exchange for children going to school or going for regular health check-ups – have become one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies, helping the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks.  Each year, safety net programs in developing countries lift an estimated 69 million people living in absolute poverty and uplifting some 97 million people from the bottom 20 percent – a substantial contribution in the global fight against poverty.

Innovation festival provides fresh ideas on how to use vital funds in Indonesian villages

Hera Diani's picture



One recent scorching afternoon, a display of colorful squat toilets welcomed curious visitors in the main park of the city of Mataram, in Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara province.
 
These visitors were not looking to buy new toilet bowls, nor were they working on home improvement projects. They were among 350 villagers who went ‘shopping’ for ideas and innovations to improve basic services and infrastructure in their home villages.
 
The 2017 Village Innovation Festival was organized by the provincial government of West Nusa Tenggara, in collaboration with the Ministry of Village's Generasi Cerdas dan Sehat Program.The festival highlighted innovative solutions to address some of the most pressing development challenges faced by village communities.

Toward water and sanitation for all: Featuring Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org

Brittany Scalise's picture
Matt Damon urges ministers to move aggressively toward water and sanitation for all.
Watch his full remarks: http://live.worldbank.org/water-and-sanitation



Last week, on April 20th, Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org, addressed ministers of finance, water, and sanitation from across the world at the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Finance Ministers’ High Level Meeting at the 2017 World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. The meeting focused on finding ways to fill the enormous financing gap via innovative financial solutions. Mr. Damon urged ministers to consider the full breadth of financing options to achieve the goal of providing safe, affordable, and sustainable water and sanitation for all.

Putting Ideas to practice: one stop in the journey of “Inclusion Matters”

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
As a concept, social inclusion can be taught. Photo: World bank

I am often asked—what happened as a result of the World Bank’s 2013 flagship report, Inclusion Matters? It made a big splash in the world of ideas but what did it do to improve people’s lives? This is not to say that ideas don’t affect the lives of people, but ideas need to percolate into practice. How do we know if a report has been relevant for development practice?

Preparing transport for an uncertain climate future: I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have a computer

Julie Rozenberg's picture
Photo: Alex Wynter/Flickr
In 2015, severe floods washed away a series of bridges in Mozambique’s Nampula province, leaving several small villages completely isolated. Breslau, a local engineer and one of our counterparts, knew that rebuilding those bridges would take months. Breslau took his motorbike and drove the length of the river to look for other roads, trails, or paths to help the villagers avoid months of isolation. He eventually found an old earth path that was quickly cleaned up and restored… After a few days, the villagers had an alternative to the destroyed bridge, reconnecting them to the rest of the network and the country.

What happened in the Nampula province perfectly illustrates how a single weather event can quickly paralyze transport connections, bringing communities and economies to a screeching halt. There are many more examples of this phenomenon, which affects both developing and developed countries. On March 30th, a section of the I-85 interstate collapsed in Atlanta, causing schools to close and forcing many people to work from home. In Peru, food prices increase in Lima when the carretera central is disrupted by landslides because agricultural products can’t be brought to market.

How can we help countries improve the resilience of their transport networks in a context of scarce resources and rising climate uncertainty?

Water and War: The turbulent dynamics between water and fragility, conflict, and violence

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
View the full infographic here

For the past two years, the rains have been poor in Somalia. What comes next is tragically familiar. Dry wells. Dying livestock. Failed harvests. Migration.  Masses of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The same is happening in Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. However, poor rains are not the only water problem that creates havoc. Floods, water-borne diseases, and transboundary water conflicts can all cause severe human suffering and disruptions to political, economic, and environmental systems.

Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the third post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

International migration trends have been the subject of fierce debate globally, and when you look at the data it’s no surprise why this is the case.  In 2015, the number of international migrants was the highest ever recorded, reaching 244 million (from 232 million in 2013), according to the International Organization for Migration.  Moreover, the number of people fleeing conflict has also risen. UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, estimates that 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, 21.3 million of which are now refugees, and around 10 million people are stateless.

These massive flows of people, however, demonstrate the incredible capacity of social networks to help individuals navigate and deal with new experiences. For most migrants the choice to move is an existential one in which they weigh the risk it takes to make the journey with the potential opportunities it may bring.  In doing so they consider where and how people they know have traveled before them, and which relationships they can tap into for support. Individuals living in diasporas also respond by sharing critical knowledge and tools, sending remittances, and in bridging the cultures between the newly arrived and their new communities.

As Michael Woolcock explains, the risk involved with migrating is directly affected by the social networks that individuals can construct to cope with the hazards and vulnerability that they encounter- both in the process of moving but also in settling and figuring out how things are done in the new locale.
 

Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

Cultural heritage and sustainable tourism: drivers of poverty reduction and shared prosperity

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. (Photo by Justin Smith / Flickr CC)
Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. (Photo: Justin Smith / Flickr CC)

Today, we celebrate the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This year, the day focuses on Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, which underlines the important linkage between culture and cities: Culture, identity, and a people-centered approach are central to building the urban future we want and ensuring sustainable urban development.

In relation to the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda this day also presents a unique opportunity to celebrate the long-standing partnership between the World Bank and UNESCO in the area of culture and sustainable development. 

The recently-launched UNESCO Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development titled Culture: Urban Future has brought to the forefront of the global discussion the critical role that culture should play in achieving sustainable urbanization, especially over the coming years when one billion people are expected to move to cities by 2030. Culture does not necessarily come in the list of Top 10 issues for sustainable urban development, but it is.

Culture is an essential component of the safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban settlements everybody wants to live in. Culture should be at the core of new approaches for people-centered cities, quality urban environments and integrated policy-making.

Specifically, culture contributes to urban development in four aspects. All of them linked to poverty eradication and shared prosperity in a sustainable manner:

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