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Reversing the geospatial digital divide – one step, or leap, at a time

Anna Wellenstein's picture
Earth from space. Photo by NASA.

Global positioning systems (GPS), real time traffic maps, accurate weather forecasts, Uber, self-driving cars… Geospatial data is on full display 24/7 throughout the world these days.  It’s like nothing we have seen before. But none of this would be possible without the underpinning role of the government.

“Geospatial,” or location-based data has existed for hundreds of years – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated analytics that is being applied to it, thanks to technological advances.

What was once information only found in the domain of government, military, and select private sector, even up to the 1980s and 90s, has come into broad use over the last 20 years. With the increase of mobile technology and communications, handheld smart phones have democratized mapping, moving geospatial technology into the hands of every individual.

This summer, some tens of millions of people in the U.S. traveled to see the total solar eclipse, including a co-author of this blog. Not only was the eclipse amazing – but the drive back from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. showed the integration and impact of geospatial information in our daily lives.
 

Let’s make a deal for resilient cities

Carina Lakovits's picture
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
JIANGXI CHINA-July 1, 2017: In Eastern China, Jiujiang was hit by heavy rain, and many urban areas were flooded. The vehicles were flooded, and the citizens risked their passage on flooded roads.
Photo credit: humphery / Shutterstock.com
For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Although cities hold the promise of a better future, the reality is that many cities cannot live up to expectations. Too often, cities lack the resources to provide even the most basic services to their inhabitants, and cities all over the world fail to protect their people effectively against the onslaught of natural disasters or climate change.

Much of this has to do with the lack of adequate infrastructure that can defend against the impacts of floods, sea level rise, landslides or earthquakes. Most cities need better flood defenses, better constructed houses, and better land use planning. But even when cities know what it takes to become more resilient, most often they do not have access to the necessary funding to realize this vision.

It is estimated that worldwide, investments of more than $4 trillion per year in urban infrastructure will be needed merely to keep pace with expected economic growth, and an additional $1 trillion will be needed to make this urban infrastructure climate resilient.  It is clear that the public sector alone, including development finance institutions like the World Bank, will not be able to generate these amounts—not by a long stretch.

Natural disasters are in 3D – and the rights that protect against them should be as well

Luis Triveno's picture
Photo credit: studiovin/Shutterstock


The recent series of devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean has reminded the world, once again, that natural disasters are not equal-opportunity destroyers. The economically marginalized and those lacking secure land and property rights are often disproportionately affected for at least three reasons:

A road by any other name: street naming and property addressing system in Accra, Ghana

Linus Pott's picture
Street names in Accra, Ghana
Street names in Accra, Ghana. Photo credit: Ben Welle/ Flickr CC
When I used to work in Rwanda, I lived on a small street in Kigali. Every time I invited friends over, I would tell them to “walk past the Embassy, look out for the Church, and then continue to the house with the black gate.” The day a street sign was erected on my street was a game changer.
 
So how do more than two million citizens of Accra navigate the busy city without the help of street names? While some street names are commonly known, most streets do not have any official name, street sign or house number. Instead, people usually refer to palm trees, speed bumps, street vendors, etc.

But, what happens when the palm tree is cut or when the street vendor changes the location?

The absence of street names poses not only challenges for orientation, but also for property tax collection, postal services, emergency services, and the private sector. Especially, new economy companies, such as Amazon or Uber, depend on street addressing systems and are eager to cater to market demands of a growing middle class.

To address these challenges, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), financed by the World Bank’s second Land Administration Project , is implementing a street addressing and property numbering system in Accra. Other Metropolitan areas received funding from other World Bank-funded projects for similar purposes.
 

改造城市滨水区

Fen Wei's picture
Also available in: English
HafenCity, Hamburg. Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
港口新城,汉堡。
图片来源: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
 “滨水区不只是孤立存在的。它与其他所有的东西相关。” —— 杰出的城市规划师Jane Jacobs说。
 
这种关系是两方面的;它指的是城市与其滨水区的关系,这种关系不断变化正如城市本身不断变化一样。
 
在工业化时代,城市滨水区是服务于城市的后院,但最近几十年来,它已经从以前的定义发展演化,有了新的含义。

一方面,在改变城市结构甚或重塑城市形象方面,滨水区发挥了更重要的作用。
 
另一方面,成功的城市滨水区也展示了可以怎样释放和利用城市资源(如可利用的土地、更清洁的水、历史遗产保护和城市更新),以及怎样将这些因素融入城市和公众的生活。

[参阅: 城市土地再生:利用私人投资从业者指南]

Understanding transit-oriented development through bike-sharing big data

Wanli Fang's picture
Also available in: 中文
As one of over 20 million people who work and live in Beijing, China, I used to find commuting to work in rush-hour traffic rather painful. However, things have changed dramatically since last year. Now I can bypass the traffic by riding a shared bike to the closest metro station and make better use of public transit. Similar change is happening to my family and friends.

The unprecedented booming of dockless shared bikes in China presents a promising solution to the “last-mile problem” that has perplexed city planners for years: providing easier access to the mass transit system while ensuring good ridership. Thanks to the GPS tracking device installed on thousands of dockless shared bikes, city planners in China are now equipped with new and better information to analyze the demand for—and the performance of—public transit systems. For the first time, city managers can clearly map out the attractiveness and accessibility of metro stations by analyzing individual-level biking trips.

This innovation is good news to efforts to build more livable, sustainable cities through transit-oriented development (TOD). For example, to support the recently launched GEF Sustainable Cities Integrated Approach Pilot Project, we have been working with Mobike, a major bike-sharing company, to conduct an analysis utilizing the data of biking trips around metro stations in our project cities. Below are a few interesting observations:
  • Revisiting the scope of TOD. A commonly accepted textbook definition of the core area of TOD is an 800-meter radius around the metro station or other types of public transit hubs. This definition is based on the distance that can be reached by a 10-minute walk. However, the actual catchment of a metro station can reach a 2-3 km radius when biking prevails, as in Demark and Netherland. Our analysis illustrates that a big chunk of biking trips around metro stations even go beyond the 3km radius (see bright blue traces in Figure 1 below). This indicates that the spatial scope of planning and design around the metro stations should be contextualized. Accordingly, the price premium associated with adjacency to public transit service is more likely to be shared by a broader range of nearby real estate properties than expected.
Figure 1: Biking traces around major metro station in Beijing (left) and Shenzhen (right).

[Read: TOD with Chinese characteristics: localization as the rule rather than the exception] –  which also discusses defining the scope of TOD. 

透过共享单车大数据了解公共交通导向的开发(TOD)

Wanli Fang's picture
Also available in: English
作为在北京工作和生活的两千多万人中的一员,我曾经常为高峰时段上下班发愁。不过从去年开始情况发生了变化。现在我可以骑着共享单车避开拥堵,到最近的地铁站搭乘地铁,更充分享受地公共交通服务的便利。我的亲朋好友也有类似的经历。
 
无桩共享单车在中国前所未有的蓬勃发展,为多年来困扰城市规划者们的“最后一公里问题”提供了颇有希望的解决方案:既让公共交通系统更便于使用,又能保证良好的客流量。许多无桩共享单车安装了GPS跟踪设备,为城市规划者分析公共交通系统的需求和绩效提供了更精准的新的数据来源。通过分析个人骑行数据,城市管理者第一次可以清楚地了解各个地铁站的吸引力和可达性。
 
这项技术创新对于通过公共交通导向开发(TOD)建设更宜居、可持续城市的工作无疑是个好消息。例如,为了支持最近启动的全球环境基金(GEF)“可持续城市综合方式示范项目”,我们与中国一家主要的共享单车公司“摩拜单车”合作,使用项目城市地铁站周边的骑行路线数据开展研究。以下是一些有意思的发现:
  • 重新审视TOD的范围。关于TOD的核心区域,普遍接受的教科书定义是围绕地铁站或其他公共交通枢纽800米半径的范围。这个定义是基于10分钟步行可达的距离。然而,在骑行普及的丹麦、荷兰等地,地铁站的实际覆盖半径可达2-3公里。我们的分析发现,地铁站周边有一大部分骑行的距离甚至超过3公里半径(见下图1中的亮蓝色轨迹)。这说明地铁站周边区域规划和设计的空间范围应该根据当地环境而定。相应地,由于靠近公共交通服务设施而产生的增值,其影响的房地产范围很可能超出预期。
1:北京(左)和深圳(右)主要地铁站周边的骑行轨

[阅读:中国特色的TOD:因地制宜是通则,而非特例] — 文章也讨论了TOD范围的划定

Transforming urban waterfronts

Fen Wei's picture
Also available in: 中文
HafenCity, Hamburg. Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
HafenCity, Hamburg.
Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
“The waterfront isn’t just something unto itself. It’s connected to everything else,” said Jane Jacobs, a prominent urbanist.
 
This connection is twofold; it refers to the relationship between cities and their waterfronts – as ever-changing as cities themselves.
 
Evolving from its past definition during the industrial era as a city’s service yard, the urban waterfront has, in recent decades, taken on new meanings.

On one hand, the waterfront is playing a more significant role in transforming the urban fabric of a city or even reshaping a city’s identity.
 
On the other hand, successful urban waterfronts have also demonstrated how city resources – such as available land, cleaner water, historic preservation, and urban revitalization – can be unlocked and realized, and how these elements can be integrated into the city and public life.
 
[Read: Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner's Guide to Leveraging Private Investment]

Punjab, Pakistan has just transformed its land record management system. What can we learn?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Land is an essential resource for sustainable development. From large cities to remote villages, land remains one of the most important assets for many people, especially the poor.

Worldwide, only 3 out of 10 people have a legally registered title to their land. Difficulties associated with land administration and registration systems, together with inequalities of land distribution and tenure insecurity, often hinder social and economic development.

In Pakistan, the province of Punjab faced such a challenge. For many rural landowners in the province, land titles weren’t easily accessible, nor were they properly managed and protected. To tackle the land administration challenge, the government of Punjab turned to an innovative solution: they used digital technology to modernize its old, inefficient paper-based land administration system.

Supported by the World Bank, the Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems (LRMIS) project turned out to be one of the success stories for the province of Punjab. Within just five years, Punjab scanned 10 million pages of old records, digitized over 55 million landowners’ records—98% of all records—across the province, and made all rural land title information available online 24/7 for landowners.


Prior to the project, it would take up to two months to complete a land transaction in Punjab. Today, it takes a rural Punjab resident only 50 minutes to receive a digitally recorded, legally registered land title from one of the 144 newly created land record offices across all 36 districts of the province. This has helped the province of Punjab enhance the transparency of land administration while securing land rights for its people, including women farmers who were denied their land rights in the old system.

In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, Director General of Punjab Land Records Authority, discuss in detail the past, present, and future of the Punjab LRMIS project.



Going forward, the government of Punjab plans to expand digital land record management to its urban areas. Cities and villages alike in other countries can also learn from this successful project and innovative approach to land administration. 

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