Disaster? There’s an app for that…

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Filed under: Climate change Development 2.0 Disaster response Peace and security Social innovation

This post was originally published on the national UNDP website

screen shot of mobile app that uses public data to help keep citizens safe, fYR Macedonia

New mobile app uses public data to help keep citizens safe

“I guess I’m a bit of an information freak!” says Vasko Popovski, UNDP’s Project Manager for Disaster and Climate Risks, when asked how he came up with the idea for a nifty new app that’s set to revolutionize public access to data on dangerous events like earthquakes, floods and fires and potential hazards like violent thunderstorms and heavy snowfalls.

With a flick of his fingers Vasko scrolls through a dozen screens listing every dangerous event currently verified and recorded in the country—from floods to power station malfunctions and floods—with maps clearly detailing the exact locations of each event.

Clicking on a highlighted location brings up specific information about the status of the event and essential advice and information on how to deal with the danger, including emergency service numbers and links for alerting others to the problem.

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Open Government Partnership in the former Soviet bloc: implementation gaps

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Filed under: Anticorruption Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

At the 15th International Anticorruption Conference (IACC), the open government partnership (OGP) and open data were among the hottest topics; mapping, crowdsourcing, new technologies and practical solutions for open data like open contracting were presented and discussed as “game changers:” powerful tools for engaging citizens and relevant stakeholders in the fight against corruption.

I had the pleasure of sitting in a panel on the OGP with activists and practitioners of the caliber of Aruna Roy and Daniel Kaufmann; the aim of our session was to showcase the successes of the OGP in promoting transparency and civic participation, fighting corruption, and harnessing technology to improve governance.

The hall was crowded with people of all ages and walks of life. It was particularly motivating and interesting to hear from Ms. Roy about her work in India at the grassroots level for access to information and from Mr Kaufmann about the tools and techniques for open government.

But while I am convinced that the OGP can have a major impact on the quality and effectiveness of public services, following the steps of my colleague Marija in the Guardian, I decided to play the devil’s advocate and point to some of the challenges ahead for the Partnership, particularly in countries with high levels of corruption. Below is a quick recap of the key points I raised.

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Co-producing Ukraine’s human development report with citizens

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Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Social inclusion

Future We Want, Ukraine - screen shot

What needs to change to improve the quality of life in Ukraine?

In a TED Talk that made the global rounds of the development community earlier this year, ONE’s John Drummond invited economists and development organizations to come down from their ivory tower and crowdsource the next generation of Millennium Development Goals (by the way, it looks like his appeal succeeded!).

Inspired by his call to action, as well as the amazing experience of Brazil’s Point by Point that succeeded in mobilizing over 500,000 people for human development, we decided to go about producing our next human development report for Ukraine in a rather unconventional way.

Typically, the topic of the Human Development Report is the result of consultations among experts, national partners and a variety of stakeholders. This is all very well and good, but what if we could push the boundaries and involve citizens directly, particularly at the local level, in defining priorities for the country’s development? (Pollsters in Ukraine have a bias towards urban centres).

What if they could help us draw attention to those development indicators that really make a difference from their perspective?

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Taking participation to a new level with GovCamp

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Filed under: Anticorruption Development 2.0 Governance Social inclusion

GovCamp in fYR Macedonia

Whizz kids and their solutions at GovCamp

I recently got back from three days of intensive brainstorming in Bitola with some of the country’s leading whizz kids to come up with new ways of using social media to increase accountability in local government.

And I’m sure everyone who took part would agree that this event took participation in governance to a new level.

GovCamp is the first think-tank of its kind in the country and a model of how citizen participation can go beyond consultation to active involvement in generating solutions to improve local services.

GovCamp was organized to support the country’s anti corruption programme, and is part of a UNDP project (pdf) to improve accountability and reduce corruption in local government.

The idea behind it is quite simple—in the best sense of the word. First an open invitation was issued to non governmental organizations (NGOs) to propose ideas for  using technology to improve communication and cooperation between citizens and local government.

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Social media and political risk analysis

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Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Disaster response Peace and security

We’ve all heard it many times before and I’ll repeat it: we live in an age of constant disruption. Being caught off guard has slowly become a part of the everyday parlance. This is painfully true in development. A conflict or a disaster can set back years of development.

A sudden drop in unemployment can have unpredictable and long lasting impacts on health, education and productivity years after it takes place. So we are on a constant lookout for methods that would give us the smallest hint about the upcoming changes and signals that something is ‘cooking’ so we can better prepare.

A growing number of private sector companies and, increasingly, development organizations, are looking at tools to augment their current ability to monitor the external environment to detect potential anomalous patterns.

A whole new generation of companies is growing to meet the demand for this type of intelligence. But for all the new gadgets, no single one can replace human intelligence, the analyst’s experience, intuition and expertise that contextualize the investigation – though it can help make smart people, well, smarter.

UNDP and Recorded Future tested whether their methods for analyzing big data, the vast amount of public source information, can make our organization better at detecting early warning signs.

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Greening cities versus growing towns

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Filed under: Central Asia Development Environment Governance

Given the rate of urbanization globally, what lies in store for cities in Central Asia? (See: What do you need to start building a city?)

This was the focus of an online discussion held in August with a leading economist from the Asian Development Bank, Guanghua Wan.

Mr. Wan co-authored a chapter of the Asian Development Bank’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 on “Green Urbanization in Asia.”

This chapter examines recent urban growth in Asia and the associated challenges and opportunities. A number of measures are recommended that would help transform cities into environmentally sustainable inclusive growth centres.

Since the Center for Economic Research where I work is developing a large project to analyse urbanization policies in Central Asia, I asked the Mr. Wan what are the key urbanization challenges in our region and what policies should governments adopt to manage them?

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How do countries come up with a vision for development? Your input wanted

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Filed under: Development Governance

Predicting the future is a thankless task, especially in times of global turmoil. But the more uncertain the future, the greater the desire to foresee it.

It’s human nature to want to plan the future because a plan provides a feeling of security, and most importantly, gives direction and focus to decisions and specific steps to take.

It helps to distribute forces and resources and make the best use of them. However, is there such a thing as a perfect plan? Probably not.

But what is important is the process itself – preparing alternative projections and strategies to view the same problems from different perspectives and find the optimum ways of dealing with challenges. This can help encourage broad policy dialogue, secure national ownership and mobilize resources.

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Disaster risk reduction: How the media can and should help

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Filed under: Central Asia Disaster response

Question-and-answer session highlighted the importance of journalist participation in pre-disaster preparedness activities

Question-and-answer session highlighted the importance of journalist participation in pre-disaster preparedness activities

We rely on newspapers and television to keep us informed. But the media play a vital role not only in the reporting of ongoing crises, but also at every stage of disaster management: from before a disaster strikes, through the heart of the crisis, and during the post-disaster recovery phase.

The media can provide much needed impetus in risk mitigation and disaster preparedness in any society, in any country around the globe.

Contributions made by the media can save lives and reduce economic losses to a considerable extent. To have such a lasting impact, however, the media need to appreciate their social responsibilities in disaster risk reduction. Read more »

Help us with our research agenda for Uzbekistan

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Filed under: Central Asia Development

Buffer zone residents, Surkhan Nature Reserve Uzbekistan (father holding little girl)

Buffer zone residents, Surkhan Nature Reserve, Uzbekistan

It’s time to formulate the research agenda for the Center for Economic Research for 2013.

We’re in the process of collecting opinions from entrepreneurs, academics, state employees and international organizations, to determine contemporary and relevant research trends in economic and social policies, and institutional and administrative reforms.

We want your input too:  

Which areas of research are of current interest for the socio-economic development of the country?

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How I turned a disability into an opportunity to help others

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Filed under: Guest posts Human rights and rule of law Poverty Social inclusion

Rakhmanberdiyev Murodyl, Chairman of the Public Association of people with disabilities

Rakhmanberdiyev Murodyl

A terrible car accident changed my life. My new disabilities made me think: “For what sins is God punishing me?”

Then I realized that I can help those like me –  people who society considers useless.

A few of us established Zhany-Turmush Umut (New life – Hope), a public association that assists people with disabilities. It was the first organization in the city to think about our rights and opportunities. So far it represents 66 people. I am its chairperson. Read more »