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Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

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Last week the New Urban Agenda was adopted by 167 nations at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador. This global agenda aims to shape the future of urban living, creating a sustainable and inclusive society for all.

Mario Cardenas, Ericsson country lead in Ecuador, and I had the honor of representing Ericsson at several events during the week, including our own side event at the Urban Library. During that event we released a documentabout the successful collaboration between our company and UN-Habitat over the past three years. I noticed that the attendees were particularly interested to hear about ICT solutions related to water. For example, we talked about how we connected the water infrastructure in a slum region of Nairobi to be able to inform both the citizens and the government of the actual situation related to water distribution. We also explained the way we have used ICT to connect streaming water resources in order to rapidly identify water contamination.

As a representative not only of Ericsson but also of Sweden, I actively participated in the Swedish Pavilion together with various Swedish organizations and governmental representatives. We had the chance to do numerous presentations about our UN-Habitat collaboration projects and our initiatives for Technology for Good and Connected Water.

We were happy to present our experience of using the computer game Minecraft as a tool for citizen participation in Kirtipur, Nepal. We did the presentation at the PopUp Public Space in the Urban Village – an outdoor scene in the park just outside the conference center. The project in Nepal was led by Fanny von Heland of Ericsson Research and published as a paper at the Future of Places conference in Stockholm in July 2015.

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Throughout the week several events and training sessions had a clear focus on the “smartness” that needs to be built into urban areas in the future. Smartness is not about blindly trusting technology, though – getting the desired results requires smart governance and public-private partnerships to finance the necessary investments. I was happy to be able to express my thoughts on this subject as the only industrial representative at a panel hosted by Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, organized as part of the celebration of UN-Habitat’s 40-year anniversary. The panel included people who had been part of the organization right from the beginning – pre-Habitat I – together with people who are facing the challenges today, such as the mayor of Quito and the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the ministers of housing for South Korea and Myanmar, among others.

My overall impression was that the conference provided the opportunity for all delegates to discuss not only the need for us all to work towards the 17 SDGs (and specifically SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities) but also to initiate a dialogue around how we can implement solutions. It’s now time for us all to act, and it’s evident that ICT will be a driving force in creating the necessary transformations towards the new smart and sustainable society.

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