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robertogreco : nairobi   17

notes from the periphery | spicytakes [Futures/futurities for The Redirect at SFMOMA]
"For this talk, I was asked to present a vision of the future, guided by a series of questions sent to me. I am very grateful for these questions, the chance to present a vision. But I was unable to conjure a vision of the future.

Instead, I will try the difficult task of describing the present as I see it, and perhaps somewhere our views might overlap – difficult these days. For me, traveling through the world, through China, through the US can be time travel enough.

I see the hyperspeed of the Bay Area, as a black Tesla scrapes against a parked car in slow motion, outside a historic black church in Oakland, next to a new brunch spot. Churchgoers and Sunday brunchers mix in a line that goes around the corner, spirituality and community threaded. A homeless man sells print media, as brunchers are glued to their phones. Depending on who you ask these days, Oakland is in the middle of a tech induced decline or a creative renaissance, or both. Survival at the edges.

I can describe to you a warp speed visit to Shenzhen, in its tech culture that remixes and hacks parts into new forms of hardware, hardware that hold an exuberant virality. In Shenzhen’s lack of intellectual property rights, I see entirely modular phones that make repair easy, unlike the cypher of an iPhone. There are phones with built in compasses that point to Mecca, earbuds that sell like hotcakes in Nairobi, co-designed by young Kenyan and Chinese entrepreneurs.

The death of intellectual property rights means a death to a human right, the assumed human right towards claiming invention. It spells a death to the elevated, individual genius. In much of Western media this death is noted as deeply problematic: copy cat culture in Shenzhen, the Chinese inability to innovate, only steal.

In Shenzhen I interview a prominent member of the maker movement who calls herself a cyborg. She brings up the deep contradictions of Western views on innovation. Why was it, she tells me, that the girls she grew up with in Shenzhen, who went on to work as factory girls in electronics factories were seen as mindless drones, while a few miles away, she soldered on Youtube and was heralded as a maker movement star? In this challenge to an Enlightenment era construction of humanity, of a purity of invention, I think of Sylvia Wynter’s wise words. “…The struggle of our new millennium will be one between the ongoing imperative of securing the well-being of our present ethnoclass (i.e., Western bourgeois) conception of the human”, she writes. And this line between security and uncertainty I believe, marks so much of our relationship to technology. the moment, as the computer scientist Terry Winogrand writes about, as the moment where we ascribe rationality to machine and the ongoing obsession with who is human.

I travel to another fold in time, rural Shandong China, in a Taobao village. In this village, over 70% of households make products at home for Taobao.com, an e-commerce platform made by the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. In rural Taobao land, the laws of Taobao supersede government laws. Farmers toil in the fields and during holiday seasons, they make costumes in home workshops for customers from Shanghai to Hanoi. One farmer is now a millionaire. I wander through fields, judging and gauging, ready to indict the viscitudes of platform capitalism, worried of a future where an entire village uses Alibaba’s mobile payment system, of tech led credit ratings. Of being beholden to Alibaba forever, amidst a village Taobao kindergarten and a Taobao hotel. The number of Taobao villages have skyrocketed, with more to come under Alibaba’s Rural Development Strategy. Other companies, like Foxconn are beginning to understand this spatial fix, this moving inward into the countryside, leaving expensive cities, like Shenzhen. Last year, Foxconn opened a 300,000 person iphone factory in Henan. All of this, under a loose policy by the government of “rural revitalization” – a nod to the rise of industrialized farming and the tech economy that must replace it.

I ask one farmer, who is also a Taobao producer, about his concerns for the future of his village’s close ties to Taobao.

He tells me that “the future” is a concept created if you believe that everything in the present is imperfect. He says that here, in the fields, in the long dark of winters, is the revelation that the universe is perfect as is. It is up to us to maintain it. There is no future, because every day depends on precariously balancing the present.

So if the future is produced, what does it mean to hold still the present? When we speak of crisis and apocalypse in the future, what needs do those words serve? Who’s needs do they serve? I think of an interview with indigenous sci-fi writer Rebecca Roanhorse. In it, she says “I think Native folks have already experienced an apocalypse, all the sort of dystopian tropes you see in movies, we’ve experienced those — our land lost, our children taken away, sent to schools and things like that. And we’ve survived.”

To hold still the present for a moment, means facing the different threads of time that weave our understanding of technology, of who we construct as the human, of what we construct as technology to begin with. After all, technology itself is a produced concept, as historian Ruth Oldenziel has documented: it was Thorsten Veblen who came up with the idea that technology is something that engineers produce. Before that, the loose umbrella of how-to was an unelevated, technical art that anyone (including) could attend to.

In a constructed futurity: who has the right to the future, who is left to steward the present? I think of software and how its builders dream of changing the world, while underneath, labor and geographic peripheries power copper mines and data centers. I think of how much work we have if we commit to the project of revolution, and who really does the work.

I wonder who are the people who must agree to the fictions someone else wrote, and those who are powerful enough to write fictions for the rest of us? I am not good at inscribing fiction, because I am still unlearning everyday the concrete and psychological fictions someone else has written.

And spending time in the Chinese countryside trying to unravel rural technology use, economic prosperity and nationalism, I begin to realize my questions are all insufficient. The mismatch is my urban understanding of time, the fictions that I have learned. Life in one village still centers around the agricultural calendar. In the agricultural calendar there are nine days in a week. Because of this, I never get the market days right.

When I finally figure out the days, I walk by people stirring sesame oil in a giant wok, all sorts of contraptions to distill, boil, assemble, nourish. If Veblen could divide realms into technology or not, surely these contraptions can be technologies too. And if we already live in a world where time travel is possible simply by traveling through multiple understandings of time and talking to others, what happens when there are multiple understandings of technology? If we embrace multitudes, what happens to the desire for a singular future, for reassurance, or our even our desires for certainty?"
xiaoweiwang  2019  rural  shenzhen  china  manufacturing  alibaba  taobao  capitalism  platformcapitalism  ruraldevelopmentstrategy  foxconn  revitalization  ruralrevitalization  future  bayarea  oakland  peripheries  nairobi  present  futures  countryside 
25 days ago by robertogreco
The Future of Cities – Medium
[video (embedded): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs ]

"Organic Filmmaking and City Re-Imagining

What does “the future of cities” mean? To much of the developing world, it might be as simple as aspiring to having your own toilet, rather than sharing one with over 100 people. To a family in Detroit, it could mean having non-toxic drinking water. For planners and mayors, it’s about a lot of things — sustainability, economy, inclusivity, and resilience. Most of us can hope we can spend a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families. For a rich white dude up in a 50th floor penthouse, “the future of cities” might mean zipping around in a flying car while a robot jerks you off and a drone delivers your pizza. For many companies, the future of cities is simply about business and money, presented to us as buzzwords like “smart city” and “the city of tomorrow.”

I started shooting the “The Future of a Cities” as a collaboration with the The Nantucket Project, but it really took shape when hundreds of people around the world responded to a scrappy video I made asking for help.

Folks of all ages, from over 75 countries, volunteered their time, thoughts, work, and footage so that I could expand the scope of the piece and connect with more people in more cities. This strategy saved me time and money, but it also clarified the video’s purpose, which inspired me to put more energy into the project in order to get it right. I was reading Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Edward Glaeser, etc. and getting excited about their ideas — after seeing what mattered to the people I met in person and watching contributions from those I didn’t, the video gained focus and perspective.

If I hired a production services outfit to help me film Mumbai, it would actually be a point of professional pride for the employees to deliver the Mumbai they think I want to see. If some young filmmakers offer to show me around their city and shoot with me for a day, we’re operating on another level, and a very different portrait of a city emerges. In the first scenario, my local collaborators get paid and I do my best to squeeze as much work out of the time period paid for as possible. In the second, the crew accepts more responsibility but gains ownership, hopefully leaving the experience feeling more empowered.

Architect and former mayor of Curitiba Jaime Lerner famously said “if you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeros.” It’s been my experience that this sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with humanity, and part of what I love about working with less resources and money is that it forces you to treat people like human beings. Asking someone to work with less support or equipment, or to contribute more time for less money, requires a mutual understanding between two people. If each person can empathize for the other, it’s been my experience that we’ll feel it in the work — both in the process and on screen.

Organic filmmaking requires you to keep your crew small and your footprint light. You start filming with one idea in mind, but the idea changes each day as elements you could never have anticipated inform the bigger picture. You make adjustments and pursue new storylines. You edit a few scenes, see what’s working and what’s not, then write new scenes. Shoot those, cut them in, then go back and write more. Each part of the process talks to the other. The movie teaches itself to be a better movie. Because organic is complicated, it can be tricky to defend and difficult to scale up, but because it’s cheap and low-resource, it’s easier to experiment. Learning about the self-organizing, living cities that I did on this project informed how we made the video. And looking at poorly planned urban projects reminded me of the broken yet prevailing model for making independent film in the U.S., where so many films are bound to fail — often in a way a filmmaker doesn’t recover from — before they even begin.

Jane Jacobs said that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I’ve worked on videos for companies, for the guy in the penthouse, for nobody in particular, in the developing world, with rich people and poor people, for me, for my friends, and for artists. I’m so thankful for everybody who allowed me to make this film the way we did, and I hope the parallels between filmmaking and city building — where the stakes are so much higher — aren’t lost on anyone trying to make their city a better place. We should all be involved. The most sustainable future is a future that includes us all.

“The Future of Cities” Reading List

(There’s a longer list I discovered recently from Planetizen HERE but these are the ones I got into on this project — I’m excited to read many more)

The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs
The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser
Cities for People and Life Between Buildings by Jan Gehl
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan Rose(just came out — incredible)
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World by Wade Graham
Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna
Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
Low Life and The Other Paris by Luc Sante
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook
Streetfight: Handbook for the Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow
Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-Term Change by Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia
Living In The Endless City, edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic

“The Future of Cities” Select Interviewees:
David Hertz & Sky Source
Vicky Chan & Avoid Obvious Architects
Carlo Ratti: Director, MIT Senseable City Lab Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati
Edward Glaeser: Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University Author of The Triumph of the City
Helle Søholt: Founding Parner & CEO, Gehl Architects
Ricky Burdett: Director, LSE Cities/Urban Age
Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer, City of Boston
Pablo Viejo: Smart Cities Expert & CTO V&V Innovations, Singapore
Matias Echanove & Urbz, Mumbai
Janette Sadik-Khan: Author, Advisor, & Former NYC DOT Commissioner
Abess Makki: CEO, City Insight
Dr. Parag Khanna: Author of Connectography
Stan Gale: CEO of Gale International, Developer of Songdo IBD
Dr. Jockin Arputham: President, Slum Dwellers International
Morton Kabell: Mayor for Technical & Environmental Affairs, Copenhagen
cities  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  bikes  biking  cars  singapore  nyc  losangeles  janejacobs  jangehl  edwardglaeser  mumbai  tokyo  regulation  jaimelerner  curitiba  nantucketproject  carloratti  vickchan  davidhertz  hellesøholt  rickyburdett  laurenlockwood  pabloviejo  matiasechanove  urbz  janettesadik-khan  abessmakki  paragkhanna  stangale  jockinarputham  slumdwellersinternational  slums  mortonkabell  urbanization  future  planning  oscarboyson  mikelydon  anthonygarcia  danielbrook  lucsante  remkoolhaas  dayansudjic  rickyburdettsethsolomonow  wadegraham  charlesmontgomery  matthewclaudeljeffspeck  jonathanrose  transportation  publictransit  transit  housing  construction  development  local  small  grassroots  technology  internet  web  online  communications  infrastructure  services  copenhagen  sidewalks  pedestrians  sharing  filmmaking  film  video  taipei  seoul  santiago  aukland  songdo  sydney  london  nairobi  venice  shenzhen  2016  sustainability  environment  population  detroit  making  manufacturing  buildings  economics  commutes  commuting 
december 2016 by robertogreco
theMagunga Bookstore - theMagunga Bookstore
"theMagunga is a theatre of stories. We collect stories and put them up so you can dwell in them, revel in their beauty and share that beauty with the world. We publish stories in many forms, we review books and we partner with lit festivals. In the spirit of continuing to share beautifully written words, theMagunga decided to open this online bookstore, to promote the distribution and reading of Kenyan and African books.

It’s about spreading the word (literally) and also about convenience. Order online, from the website, and have the book delivered to you for FREE within the Nairobi CBD and its environs. Since we are passionate about stories as well as improving the reading culture in our society, we strive to provide the best possible deals on the books we stock.

So go check out our bookstore and get your read need satiated. It is, after all, what you know theMagunga does best.

Thank you for shopping with us."

[via: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/bringing-african-books-back-home ]
bookstores  booksellers  magungawilliams  abigailarunga  davidmabiria  odouroduko  nairobi  kenya  africa 
november 2016 by robertogreco
100 African Writers of SFF — Part One: Nairobi | Tor.com
"An African writer who makes mix tapes of game soundtracks. A Nairobi filmmaker with Nietzsche on his smart phone. A chess champion who loves Philip K Dick. An African SF poet who quotes the Beatniks… meet the new New Wave in Nairobi, Kenya. Part one of our series 100 African Writers of SFF.

About that title…

100: Because it’s easy to remember. More like 120 or 130 writers, but many I won’t get to meet. I’ll list as many as I can by location, by social scene. Because people, even writers, succeed in groups.

AFRICAN: Meaning mostly people with African citizenship in Africa, but I’m not going to be draconian. Writers like Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar are beacons to young Africans. They take an active role in African publishing projects—Nnedi with Lagos 2060 and AfroSF and Sofia with the Jalada Afrofuture(s) anthology, which she helped edit. “African” itself is a dubious concept. I will try to use more precise terms—nations, cities, and peoples.

WRITERS: Will include filmmakers, poets and comics artists. Not all of them have published frequently. Some have only published themselves, but given the lack of publisher opportunities, I think that’s enterprising. They’re still writers.

SFF: Stands for science fiction and fantasy. I use the term in its broadest sense to include generic SF and fantasy, horror, alternative histories, speculative fiction, slipstream, variations on Kafka, fables, nonsense and more.

Some of the most powerful African writing has elements that would be fantastical in the West, but which are everyday in traditional cultures. I use two distinct terms to describe some of the works by these writers—“traditional belief realism” as distinct from “traditional belief fantasy.” The first category includes Tail Of The Blue Bird by Nii Parkes and Kintu by Nansubuga Makumbi. Traditional belief fantasy is actually the older genre, exampled by The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola or Forest of a Thousand Demons by D.O. Fagunwa.

However, many of these new writers bear the same relation to oral literature that (in a different context), Bob Dylan bore to folk music. Family stories are a springboard to something original, that mashes together any language or material that helps these writers express themselves.

What may be special to Nairobi—and perhaps to countries like Nigeria as well—is the way in which monotheistic, traditional, and scientific belief systems hover in proximity to each other, often without a sense of contradiction."
africa  sciencefiction  scifi  lists  literature  nairobi  kenya  toread  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
BRCK | Rugged, Portable WiFi Hotspot & Battery Extender
"We’re a team of software developers, engineers and technologists who are from Africa and live here. We have a long history of building things, such as Ushahidi, Crowdmap and the iHub. Our expertise runs from cloud software to fingerprint scanners for mobile devices to high-level medical device prototyping and manufacturing.

The BRCK was designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya. We wanted a connectivity device that fit our needs, where electricity and internet connections are problematic both in urban and rural areas.

As we laid out what such a device would look like – physically robust, able to connect to multiple networks, a hub for all local devices, enough backup power to survive a blackout – we realized that the way the entire world is connecting to the web is changing. We no longer only get online via desktops in our office with an ethernet connection, we have multiple devices, and mobile connectivity is crucial."

[See also: https://www.instagram.com/brcknet/ ]

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BExylz5FIRU/
https://www.instagram.com/p/BFl2RW3lIVf/ ]
wifi  internet  hardware  brck  nairobi  kenya  ushahidi  ihub  crowdmap  connectivity 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Refugee camps are the "cities of tomorrow", says aid expert
"Governments should stop thinking about refugee camps as temporary places, says Kilian Kleinschmidt, one of the world's leading authorities on humanitarian aid (+ interview).

"These are the cities of tomorrow," said Kleinschmidt of Europe's rapidly expanding refugee camps. "The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That's a generation."

"In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city," he told Dezeen.

Kleinschmidt said a lack of willingness to recognise that camps had become a permanent fixture around the world and a failure to provide proper infrastructure was leading to unnecessarily poor conditions and leaving residents vulnerable to "crooks".

"I think we have reached the dead end almost where the humanitarian agencies cannot cope with the crisis," he said. "We're doing humanitarian aid as we did 70 years ago after the second world war. Nothing has changed."

Kleinschmidt, 53, worked for 25 years for the United Nations and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in various camps and operations worldwide. He was most recently stationed in Zaatari in Jordan, the world's second largest refugee camp – before leaving to start his own aid consultancy, Switxboard.

He believes that migrants coming into Europe could help repopulate parts of Spain and Italy that have been abandoned as people gravitate increasingly towards major cities.

"Many places in Europe are totally deserted because the people have moved to other places," he said. "You could put in a new population, set up opportunities to develop and trade and work. You could see them as special development zones which are actually used as a trigger for an otherwise impoverished neglected area."

Refugees could also stimulate the economy in Germany, which has 600,000 job vacancies and requires tens of thousands of new apartments to house workers, he said.

"Germany is very interesting, because it is actually seeing this as the beginning of a big economic boost," he explained. "Building 300,000 affordable apartments a year: the building industry is dreaming of this!"

"It creates tons of jobs, even for those who are coming in now. Germany will come out of this crisis."

Kleinschmidt told Dezeen that aid organisations and governments needed to accept that new technologies like 3D printing could enable refugees and migrants to become more self-sufficient.

"With a Fab Lab people could produce anything they need – a house, a car, a bicycle, generating their own energy, whatever," he said.

His own attempts to set up a Zaatari Fab Lab – a workshop providing access to digital fabrication tools – have been met with opposition.

"That whole concept that you can connect a poor person with something that belongs to the 21st century is very alien to even most aid agencies," he said. "Intelligence services and so on from government think 'my god, these are just refugees, so why should they be able to do 3D-printing? Why should they be working on robotics?' The idea is that if you're poor, it's all only about survival."

"We have to get away from the concept that, because you have that status – migrant, refugee, martian, alien, whatever – you're not allowed to be like everybody else."

Read the edited transcript from our interview with Kilian Kleinschmidt:

Talia Radford: Why did you leave the UN?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: I left the the UN to be as disruptive as possible, as provocative as possible, because within the UN of course there is certain discipline. I mean I was always the rebel.

Talia Radford: What is there to rebel about?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: I think we have reached the dead end almost where the humanitarian agencies cannot cope with the crisis. We're doing humanitarian aid as we did 70 years ago after the second world war. Nothing has changed.

In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city.

These are the cities of tomorrow. The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That's a generation. Let's look at these places as cities.

Talia Radford: Why aren't refugee camps flourishing into existing cities?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: It's down to the stupidity of the aid organisations, who prefer to waste money and work in a non-sustainable way rather than investing in making them sustainable.

Talia Radford: Why are people coming to Europe?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Everybody who is coming here right now is an economic migrant. They are not refugees. They were refugees in Jordan, but they are coming to Europe to study, to work, to have a perspective for their families. In the pure definition, it's a migration issue.

Right now everybody is going to Germany because in Germany they have 600,000 job vacancies. So of course there is an attraction, and there is space. Once the space is filled, nobody will go there anymore. They will go somewhere else.

Talia Radford: How do refugees – or economic migrants – know where to go? Via the media?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: No, it's all done through Whatsapp!

Talia Radford: What is the relationship between migration and technology?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Every Syrian refugee in the Zaatari camp has been watching Google self-driving cars moving around, so [they] don't believe the information only belongs to the rich people anymore.

We did studies in the Zaatari camp on communication. Everybody had a cellphone and 60 per cent had a smartphone. The first thing people were doing when they came across the border was calling back home to Syria and saying "hey we made it". So the big, big thing was to distribute Jordanian sim cards.

Once we had gotten over the riots over water and lots of other things that politicised the camp, the next big issue was internet connectivity.

Talia Radford: What are the infrastructure requirements of a mass influx of refugees?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: The first is the logistics of accommodation: that's the survival bit. Everyone is struggling with this now, in reception centres, camps – every country in the world is dealing with this. Eighty-five to 90 per cent of any people on the move will be melting into the population so the real issue is how you deal with a sudden higher demand for accommodation.

Germany says that they suddenly need 300 to 400,000 affordable housing units more per year. It's about dealing with the structural issues, dealing with the increased population, and absorbing them into existing infrastructure.

Talia Radford: How do you see the refugee situation in Europe now?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: The discussion in Germany is quite interesting, because they currently have 600,000 jobs to fill, but they are all in places where there is no housing. It's all in urban centres where they have forgotten to build apartments.

Half of east Germany is empty. Half of southern Italy is empty. Spain is empty. Many places in Europe are totally deserted.

You could redevelop some of these empty cities into free-trade zones where you would put in a new population and actually set up opportunities to develop and trade and work. You could see them as special development zones, which are actually used as a trigger for an otherwise impoverished, neglected area.

Germany is very interesting, because it is actually seeing this as the beginning of a big economic boost. Building 300,000 apartments a year: the building industry is dreaming of this! It creates tons of jobs, even for those who are coming in now. Germany will come out of this crisis.

In Pakistan, in Jordan, they say "Oh no! These people are all going back in five minutes so we're not building any apartments for them! Put them in tents, put them in short-lived solutions." What they are losing is actually a real opportunity for progress, for change. They are losing an opportunity for additional resources, capacities, know-how.

Talia Radford: What other technologies have you dealt with in relation to refugees and migration?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Energy is the big one. Things are finally moving because of the energy storage, which we suddenly have with the Tesla batteries for instance. Decentralised production of energy is the way forward. Thirty per cent of the world's population does not have regular access to energy. We could see a mega, mega revolution. With little investment we can set up a solar-power plant that not only provides power to the entire camp, but can also be sold to the surrounding settlements.

And water. In the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Danish groundwater pump supplier Grundfos partnered with a water company and you now have a smart-water terminal in the slum, where with smart cards you can buy clean drinking water.

You buy your water from a safe location for a fraction of what the crooks of the water business in Nairobi would sell the water for. So suddenly it becomes affordable, it becomes safe, and you can manage the quantities yourself.

A lot of change is facilitated by mobile phones. No poor person has a bank account any more in Kenya. Everybody has an M-Pesa account on their mobile phone. All transactions are done with their mobile phone. They don't need banks. They pay their staff now with your mobile phone. You charge their M-Pesa account.

Talia Radford: Are any of these services being set up at refugee camps?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: At Zaatari, the UNHCR never planned to provide electricity for the households. So people took it themselves from the power lines running through the camp. Electricity means safety, it means social life, it means business. Big business! People were charging €30 per connection and more.

With a $3 million investment in pre-paid meters, you could have ensured every household would get a certain subsidised quantity of energy. The UNHCR didn't think it would have $3 million to invest in the equipment, and so it is spending a million dollars a month of taxpayers' money on an unmanaged electricity bill.

Talia Radford: You helped set up a Fab Lab… [more]
immigration  cities  humanitarianaid  urban  urbanism  kiliankleinschmidt  unhcr  zaatari  jordan  refugees  refugeecamps  switxboard  europe  germany  economics  españa  spain  italy  italia  fabricationtaliaradford  interviews  migration  employment  jobs  work  fablabs  safety  infrastructure  kenya  nairobi  kibera  grundfos  energy  decentralization  solarpower  solar  batteries  technology  pakistan  housing  homes  politics  policy  syria 
november 2015 by robertogreco
How Nairobi Got Its Ad-Hoc Bus System on Google Maps | WIRED
"The idea to map the matatus began in 2012 when Sarah Williams and Jacqueline Klopp, two researchers working on land use projects in Nairobi, connected with Groupshot co-founder Adam White. “Adam and I started talking about the problem of working on sustainable transportation,” says Klopp, an associate research scholar at the Columbia Center for Sustainable Urban Development. “There were all these transportation projects going on, but there was no basic data about the existing transit system in Nairobi.”

The annals of the city government held some matatu data, but not much. Digital Matatus found records for about 75 percent of the routes, but they only included the start and end points, making it impossible to know how the buses navigated through the city. So armed with smartphones, ten university students spent four months riding the matatus, noting the name and location of each stop in a purpose-built app, which also used GPS to track the route. In dangerous neighborhoods, they followed behind the brightly painted buses in private cars.

By the end, the students recorded almost 3,000 stops on more than 130 routes. Next, all that data needed to be put in a usable format—specifically, a global standard called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), which is compatible with open-source software used to make routing apps like Google Maps. But GTFS, developed in 2005, is geared towards formal transit systems, ones with fixed times and schedules.

That’s when Digital Matatus connected with Google Maps. Along with the rest of the robust GTFS community, Google agreed to update the global standard to make room for flexible transit networks with constantly changing schedules, routes, and stops. Nairobi was a perfect test bed. “In our efforts to expand public transportation on Google Maps, it was a good place to go next because there were people eager and willing to work on it,” said Mara Harris, a Google rep."



"Launching the matatu routes in Google emphasizes the need to study the informal transit networks that shuttle masses of people around in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and south Asia. “You’re saying this is part of the system,” said Klopp. And since the GTFS data structure and the Nairobi data are open source, Digital Matatus gives other groups in Mexico City, Manila, Dhaka, China, and elsewhere a plan to collect and disseminate data on their transit. The collaboration has already received requests from around the world to map their cities.

Digital Matatus has also started talks with four more cities in Africa—Kampala, Accra, Lusaka, and Maputo—to use the same methods to map their informal mass transit systems. “So many of our problems in developing cities where you have extreme poverty and awful environmental conditions—they’re always tied in some way to the transport sector,” said Cervero. “It’s very chaotic and unmanaged, so this is a huge first step towards enhancing those services.”

People in Nairobi still use the paper maps because the matatu routes have not changed since their release, and the ultimate goal is a formal transit system with set maps, times, and prices. But hopefully “formal” will still mean you enjoy your commute with twinkling disco balls and a good beat."
nairobi  googlemaps  buses  transportation  maps  mapping  publictransportation  africa  kenya  matutus 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Engineering a mass-transit app for a city without mass-transit - Quartz
"In 2014, a research collaboration between the University of Nairobi, Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Groupshot, and MIT’s Civic Design Lab yielded a project dubbed “Digital Matatus”. Their goal was to develop a better understanding of Nairobi’s informal transit system.

To get the data, a team of volunteers were armed with GPS-tracking cellphones, and told to ride the matatus as usual.

Using that raw data, researchers cobbled together an exhaustive list of matatus routes, arrival times, and stop locations. They then converted it into GTFS, which is the standard way for transit agencies to publish their scheduled data on the web.

The final step was to comb through the chaos of that data, and find out how Nairobi’s informal transit system was functioning in vivo.

When they saw the findings, they were shocked.

Despite the lack of government coordination between matatus, the market doesn’t yield a slapdash tangle of contradictory bus lines.

Instead, it responds to demand with a surprisingly logical transit network.

There is a remarkable method to the madness: matatus follow 130 regular routes, congregate around the same stops, and do so at frequencies designed to maximize revenue.

The network isn’t perfect: downtown routes are often jammed, and less popular areas can be under-served. But for a system without any centralized planning, Nairobi’s performs rather well.

And when the researchers printed their findings out onto a map, they looked surprisingly similar to the sort of systems we’ve mapped ourselves in Berlin, Toronto, and San Francisco!

What’s more amazing is that the matatu system has evolved to deal with congestion. An (albeit imperfect) equilibrium has been met between routes travelling down highways, arterials, and local roads. All things told, Nairobi’s informal transit system has adapted extremely well to extremely difficult circumstances.

Extremely difficult circumstances, but ones that haven’t deterred us.

Using the data collected from the Digital Matatu project, Transit App will be the first public transportation app to integrate Nairobi’s transit system.

Before, the lack of public transit information forced commuters to plan their day around the particular matatus they happened to be familiar with.

But now commuters in the city will have the flexibility to find which ride will get them to their destination at their own personal convenience. They can access a list of nearby routes — where to board, how frequently they arrive, and where they’ll stop.

And if riders need to go somewhere new? Our trip planner will tell them how to get there. This capability is important: one of the discoveries of the Digital Matatus project was that some Nairobians don’t take the most efficient routes — simply because they don’t know the options. Even Google Maps doesn’t support transit in Nairobi yet."

[Also available here: https://medium.com/@transitapp/hello-nairobi-cc27bb5a73b7 ]
nairobi  kenya  africa  informaleconomy  mobile  phones  transportation  publictransportation  masstransit  2015  technology  matatus  cities  urban  urbanism  digitalmatatu  transit  buses  application  transitapp  maps  mapping 
march 2015 by robertogreco
PAWA254 | ArtRising
"PAWA254 is Nairobi's unique social enterprise through which innovative professionals from diverse artistic fields exploit their creative genius to foster social change. Among the creatives who collaborate in this dynamic space are photographers, graphic artists, journalists, musicians and poets. Significantly, promising youths are invited, both to make their contribution in this informal powerhouse and to receive mentorship from the experts. The end result of the PAWA254 collaborative effort is work that is as inspiring as it is far-reaching simply, work of unparalleled social impact. The PAWA254 hub houses, fosters, and catalyzes creative and community-driven projects for social change across Kenya. It is the first of its kind in Africa.

The Message

Used together as PAWA254, the words convey the message Power Kenya, and symbolize national strength and unity in a context of devotion to Kenya, a once-peaceful nation that almost went to ruin with the post-2007 election-related violence. But there is an interesting twist to the PAWA254 story: usage of the slang term Pawa captures the colloquial, informal nature of the limited company PAWA254 which seeks innovation in a casual and relaxed creative office environment. Here, there is little room left for the usual, stiff formalities of a traditional office setting.

The two-wing PAWA254 hub facilitates use of visual and graphic arts, independent and citizen journalism, documentary film and photography, as well as digital and social media as means of civic expression and social action.

To meet its objectives, the hub facility brings together established and aspiring photographers, cartoonists, animators, creative designers, videographers and filmmakers, as well as entrepreneurs and activists, to work, learn, and share in an environment that inspires creativity and innovative effort, the ultimate aim being to facilitate social change.

How It Works

PAWA254′s community of like-minded and active professionals meets and works daily in its flexible co-working space. This space also serves as an open resource for a range of collaborative youth meetings and efforts, and as an exhibition centre for photography and journalism, among other artistic endeavours.

The space is a haven for investors and others seeking to support social change in Kenya. Regular programmes and training sessions foster skill-sharing and empower a new generation of young professionals and disadvantaged youth to effect social change through tangible, innovative projects.

Primary programmatic focus is on photography and visual arts, documentary and mixed media, traditional and citizen journalism, as well as community organizing. Regular training programmes, workshops, clinics, and photography salons at the space are free of charge and are open to the public. The space is also available for rental to entrepreneurial creatives who seek state-of-the-art conferencing facilities in an atmosphere that is easy and amazingly hospitable.

Pawa254 Programs and Events

A principal part of Pawa254’s mission has been to make the space and its resources accessible to persons at the grassroots level. Besides building a strong community in-house, PAWA254 has engaged more than 100,000 youths since its inception. This has been achieved through training sessions and diverse outreach programs. We continue to recruit, train, and equip a new generation of bold creative’s whose outlook will help reshape the media landscape in Kenya, the aim of impacting society positively through the arts. At the heart of the PAWA254 undertaking is improvement of the socioeconomic situation of youth from underprivileged backgrounds. Also, for self-motivated youths, participation in our training sessions and workshops leads to professional employment, and can be a spur to fruitful self-employment. Here is an inventory of the programs hosted at the PAWA254 hub:"

[See also: https://www.youtube.com/user/PAWA254TV/ ]
pawa254  kenya  nairobi  africa  socialchange  lcproject  openstudioproject  mentoring  collaboration  community  communities  creativity  art  arts  photography  journalism  bonifacemwangi  coworking 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The smartest cities rely on citizen cunning and unglamorous technology | Cities | The Guardian
"Ignore the futuristic visions of governments and developers, it’s humble urban communities who lead the way in showing how networked technologies can strengthen a city’s social fabric"



"We are lucky enough to live at a time in which a furious wave of innovation is breaking across the cities of the global south, spurred on both by the blistering pace of urbanisation, and by the rising popular demand for access to high-quality infrastructure that follows in its wake.

From Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting and the literally destratifying cable cars of Caracas, to Nairobi’s “digital matatus” and the repurposed bus-ferries of Manila, the communities of the south are responsible for an ever-lengthening parade of social and technical innovations that rival anything the developed world has to offer for ingenuity and practical utility.

Nor is India an exception to this tendency. Transparent Chennai’s participatory maps and the work of the Mumbai-based practices CRIT and URBZ are better-known globally, but it is the tactics of daily survival devised by the unheralded multitude that really inspire urbanists. These techniques maximise the transactive capacity of the urban fabric, wrest the very last increment of value from the energy invested in the production of manufactured goods, and allow millions to eke a living, however precarious, from the most unpromising of circumstances. At a time of vertiginously spiralling economic and environmental stress globally, these are insights many of us in the developed north would be well advised to attend to – and by no means merely the poorest among us.

But, for whatever reason, this is not the face of urban innovation official India wants to share with the world – perhaps small-scale projects or the tactics of the poor simply aren’t dramatic enough to convey the magnitude and force of national ambition. We hear, instead, of schemes like Palava City, a nominally futuristic vision of digital technology minutely interwoven into the texture of everday urban life. Headlines were made around the planet this year when Narendra Modi’s government announced it had committed to building no fewer than 100 similarly “smart” cities.

Because definitions of the smart city remain so vague, I think it’s worth thinking carefully about what this might mean – beyond, that is, the 7,000 billion rupees (£70bn) in financing that India’s high powered expert committee on urban infrastructure believes the scheme will require over the next 20 years. It is one thing, after all, to reinforce the basic infrastructures that undergird the quality of urban life everywhere; quite another to propose saddling India’s cities with expensive, untested technology at a time when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water or safe sanitary facilities remain beyond reach for too many.

We can take it as read that our networked technologies will continue to play some fairly considerable role in shaping the circumstances and possibilities experienced by billions of city-dwellers worldwide. So it’s only appropriate to consider the ways in which these technologies might inform decisions about urban land use, mobility and governance.

However, especially at a time of such enthusiasm for the notion in India, I think it’s vital to point out that “the smart city” is not the only way of bringing advanced information technology to bear on these questions of urban life. It’s but one selection from a sheaf of available possibilities, and not anywhere near the most responsive, equitable or fructifying among them.

We can see this most easily by considering just who it is the smart city is intended for – by seeking to discover what model of urban subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios offered by the multinational IT vendors that developed the smart city concept in the first place, and who are heavily involved in sites like Palava. When you examine their internal documentation, marketing materials and extant interventions, it becomes evident there is a pronounced way of thinking about the civic that is bound up in all of them, with rather grim implications for the politics of participation.

A close reading leaves little room for doubt that vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation. (This is explicit in Palava’s marketing materials, as well.) All in all, it’s a brutally reductive conception of civic life, and one with little to offer those of us whose notions of citizenhood are more robust."



"The true enablers of participation turn out to be nothing more exciting than cheap commodity devices, reliable access to sufficiently high- bandwidth connectivity, and generic cloud services. These implications should be carefully mulled over by developers, those responsible for crafting municipal and national policy, and funding bodies in the philanthropic sector.

In both these cases, ordinary people used technologies of connection to help them steer their own affairs, not merely managing complex domains to a minimal threshold of competence, but outperforming the official bodies formally entrusted with their stewardship. This presents us with the intriguing prospect that more of the circumstances of everyday urban life might be managed this way, on a participatory basis, by autonomous neighbourhood groups networked with one another in something amounting to a city-wide federation.

In order to understand how we might get there from here, we need to invoke a notion drawn from the study of dynamic systems. Metastability is the idea that there are multiple stable configurations a system can assume within a larger possibility space; the shape that system takes at the moment may simply be one among many that are potentially available to it. Seen in this light, it’s clear that all the paraphernalia we regard as the sign and substance of government may in fact merely constitute what a dynamicist would think of as a “local maximum”. There remain available to us other possible states, in which we might connect to one another in different ways, giving rise to different implications, different conceptions of urban citizenship, and profoundly different outcomes.

The sociologist Bruno Latour warns us not to speak airily of “potential”, reminding us that we have to actually do the work of bringing some state of affairs into being before we can know whether it was indeed a possible future state of the system – and also that work is never accomplished without some cost. I nevertheless believe, given the very substantial benefits we know people and communities enjoy when afforded real control over the conditions of their being, that whatever the cost incurred in this exploration, it would be one well worth bearing.

The evidence before us strongly suggests that investment in the unglamorous technologies, frameworks and infrastructures that are already known to underwrite citizen participation would result in better outcomes for tens of millions of ordinary Indians – and would shoulder the state with far-less onerous a financial burden – than investment in the high-tech chimeras of centralised control. The wisest course would be to plan technological interventions to come on the understanding that the true intelligence of the Indian city will continue to reside where it always has: in the people who live and work in it, who animate it and give it a voice."

[See also: http://boingboing.net/2014/12/24/why-smart-cities-should-be.html ]
2014  adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  collectivism  cities  innovation  smartcities  chennai  caracas  nairobi  portoalegre  digitalmatatus  manila  infrastructure  palavacity  technology  power  control  democracy  ows  occupywallstreet  urbz  crit  transparency  occupysandy  nyc  elcampodecebada  madrid  zuloark  zuloarkcollective  collectives  twitter  facebook  troughofdisallusionment  darkweather  networks  internetofpeople  brunolatour  grassroots  systems  systemsthinking  metastability  dynamicsystems 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Block by Block
"UN-Habitat and Mojang using Minecraft to involve young people in urban planning"

""Block by Block" is an innovative partnership between the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the UN agency promoting sustainable towns and cities, and Mojang, the makers of Minecraft.Block by Block involves young people in the planning of urban public spaces. Minecraft has turned out to be the perfect tool to facilitate this process. The four-year partnership will support UN-Habitat’s Sustainable Urban Development Network to upgrade 300 public spaces by 2016. The first pilot project in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements is already underway.More information about UN-Habitat can be found on www.unhabitat.org. More information about Mojang can be found at www.mojang.com."
minecraft  urbanplanning  un-habitat  mojang  kibera  nairobi  kenya 
august 2013 by robertogreco
In Kenya, Using Tech To Put An 'Invisible' Slum On The Map : Parallels : NPR
"In the storage room of an Internet cafe that the Spatial Collective uses for its office, I watch Kaka and the other slum mappers play idly with their GPS devices. In nine clicks, they zoom out the view broader and broader to encompass Nairobi city, then Kenya, then Africa, then the globe. Kaka laughs when I point out his habit.

"It's good to know where your spot — where your spot is in the world," he says, shrugging.

And the more time he spends looking at his home through the lens of the GPS, the more he can't shake the sense that the outside world is finally looking back.

"With the GPS if you mark a point, you know that there's someone out there who will get the information that there's a something happening here — or that there's me here," he says, with a sheepish chuckle.

While basic inadequacies and deep uncertainty still define the life here, he says, the days when some unscrupulous developer could send arsonists in at night and erase all traces of a community seem to be fading into the past. Among residents, there's a growing sense that in seeing their slum from the satellite level, from 10,000 miles up, they are starting to take their city out of the shadows."
maps  mapping  nairobi  kenya  africa  slums  urban  urbanism  identity  activism  gis  gps  spatialcollective  projectideas 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Spatial Collective
"Spatial Collective Limited is a Nairobi-based social enterprise that uses Geographic Information Systems for community development.

Through data collection and visualization, we support communities to identify available resources and apply this knowledge in development initiatives.

We work with myriad actors, including local residents, governments, non-governmental organizations, small businesses and research institutions.

Our collective expertise lies in community organizing, participatory digital mapping, web-based mapping technologies, and data collection and communication. We implement projects that build the capacity of local institutions, and advise organizations on the effective uses of digital maps."

[via: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/07/17/202656235/in-kenya-using-tech-to-put-an-invisible-slum-on-the-map ]
maps  mapping  kenya  nairobi  gis  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  community  communityorganization  slums  spatialcollective  projectideas 
july 2013 by robertogreco
One billion slum dwellers - The Big Picture - Boston.com
"One billion people worldwide live in slums, a number that will likely double by 2030. The characteristics of slum life vary greatly between geographic regions, but they are generally inhabited by the very poor or socially disadvantaged. Slum buildings can be simple shacks or permanent and well-maintained structures but lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services. In this post, I've included images from several slums including Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa (and the third largest in the world); New Building slum in central Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Pinheirinho slum - where residents recently resisted police efforts to forcibly evict them; and slum dwellers from Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi, India. India has about 93 million slum dwellers and as much as 50% of New Delhi's population is thought to live in slums, 60% of Mumbai."
dharavi  pakistan  islamabad  haiti  port-au-prince  phnompenh  cambodia  informalcity  urbanism  urban  urbanization  cities  bigpicture  photography  newdelhi  pinheirinho  africa  malabo  equatorialguinea  brasil  sãopaulo  nairobi  kibera  mumbai  kolkata  via:lukeneff  kenya  india  slums  brazil 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Groupshot
"Informality is the condition of an unplanned system and arises spontaneously. While informal systems can be inefficient, they also provide a range of emergent and positive services.

Groupshot designs new processes and tools that engage the positive qualities of informality. The result is an enhancement of the capabilities of informal systems, and the optimal connection between the best of the informal and the benefits of the formal."
design  informality  informalsystems  nuvustudio  ibo  frontlinessms  instituteforgloballeadership  lcproject  glvo  india  informal  afghanistan  southafrica  capetown  groupshot  scalability  developingworld  nairobi  kenya  haiti  port-au-prince  technology  projectideas  classideas  humanitariandesign  nuvu  scale 
december 2011 by robertogreco

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