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Urban Development

A New Breed of Private Sector: Entrepreneurs and Urban Water

Julia Bucknall's picture

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” Lao Tzu

In the film Quantum of Solace, James Bond battles a corrupt environmentalist to prevent a company from taking over Bolivia’s water supply. The company planned to enrich itself by creating a monopoly and charging excessive rates for water. Fortunately, Bond foils the plot, and the people of Bolivia do not lose affordable access to their water resources.

Training the Burkinabe in Building Timber-Free Housing Alternatives

Karen Vega's picture

The WB team were welcomed to Boromo (a province of Bales located two hours from Ouagadogou) by a team from Association La Voute Nubienne; a French non-governmental organization(NGO) with field offices in Burkina Faso. Their team is composed of 11 Burkinabes and a French team member, who trains masons to construct timber-free houses using the Nubian Vault technique.

A Nubian Vault house is made from locally available materials and is designed to use no wood. Because the ceiling is raised into a vault it keeps the living space significantly cooler than a typical box shaped house with a tin roof. This design originated from upper-Egypt and is a good example of south-south technology transfer.

The project, funded by the Development Marketplace, is a pilot that will test out a strategy to identify local champions and potential clients for the Nubian Vault houses.

Latin America: stop road deaths now

Aurelio Menéndez's picture

Latin America: stop road deaths now

From now until 2020, 10 million people – the population of a small Latin American country – are expected to die in traffic accidents around the world. Latin America itself is a prime victim of this trend: sadly, the region endures the highest number of fatalities caused by automobile accidents in the world.

However, this number could be halved if every single one of us commit to improving road safety. The international community has already moved this issue at the top of its agenda by joining the United Nations in declaring 2011-2020 as the "Decade of Action for Road Safety", which kicks off this week.

Loveable Cities vs. Liveable Cities

Christa Anderson's picture

What makes your city great? Are you living there because of great skyscrapers? Connectivity? A love of turmoil? Edwin Heathcote at FT gives us a scan of liveable city indices here, explaining why "liveable cities lists [are] intellectually on par with People magazine’s ‘sexiest people’ lists."

Masdar: Mirage or Green-City?

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Masdar City

Recently I saw Masdar City for the first time.  I was excited to visit since over the last few years at almost every ‘Green Cities’ Conference I attended someone mentioned Masdar. Masdar City seemed the big hope: with potential and excitement of a whole new city in the desert. After $20 Billion in infrastructure investments, 50,000 people would live in this “emissions free”, closed-system suburb of Abu Dhabi. Masdar is to be a city of the future; a living laboratory to develop new technology. Planners, engineers and financiers are rushing to get in on its development. Easily a dozen times in the last two years someone enthused over coffee or lunch. ‘You need to visit’, I was told many times.

Civil society talks food price volatility, support to farmers

Sarah Holmberg's picture



As the Bank reported earlier this week, global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world. Rising prices have pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty since last June.

The 10-Cent GPS

Holly Krambeck's picture

We know that technology is not a panacea, that gadgetry and software are not always the right solutions for our transport problems. But how do we know – really know -- when technology is truly the wrong way to go – when, say, using an old-fashioned compass is genuinely better than a GPS?

Thanks to blogger Sebastiao Ferreira, writing for MIT’s CoLab Radio, I have learned about an intriguing phenomenon in Lima, where entrepreneur data collectors, named dateros, stand with clipboards along frequented informal microbus routes, collecting data on headways, passenger counts, and vehicle occupancy levels. The microbus drivers pay dateros about 10-cents per instant update, and they use the information to adjust their driving speed.  For example, if there is a full bus only a minute ahead of the driver’s vehicle, the driver will slow down, hoping to collect more passengers further down the route. In informal transit systems, where drivers’ incomes are directly tied to passenger counts, paying dateros is a good investment (Photo from MIT CoLab Radio).

If you think about it, use of dateros could be more efficient than traditional schedule or GPS-based dispatch, because the headways are dynamically and continuously updated to optimize the number of passengers transported at any given time of day.  According to Jeff Warren (a DIY cartography pioneer), the dateros have been praised as the “natural database, an ‘informal bank’ of transportation optimization data.”

Does this little-known practice call into question our traditional prescription for high-tech solutions to bus dispatch?

“They are sitting on a gold mine and don’t even know it….”

Holly Krambeck's picture

The other day, my colleague Roger Gorham, a transport economist working in Africa, shared with me an interesting story. He was in Lagos, meeting with stakeholders about setting up public-private partnerships for transport initiatives. One meeting revealed that, in an effort to improve service, a private entity had invested in new taxis for Lagos and in each had installed a GPS unit. This little revelation may not seem interesting, but it was very exciting to Roger, who also learned that the company has amassed more than 3 years of GPS tracking data for these taxis (which, incidentally, troll the city like perfect probes, nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and that this data could be made available to him, if he thought he might make some use of it.

Now, if you are reading this blog, chances are that you realize that with this kind of data and a little analysis, we can quickly and easily reveal powerful insights about a city’s transport network – when and where congestion occurs, average traffic volumes, key traffic generators (from taxi pick-up point data), occurrence of accidents and traffic blockages in real time, and even the estimated effects of congestion and drive cycle on fuel efficiency.

As Roger said, “They are sitting on a gold mine and don’t even know it….”


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