With the title “How smart city can fight poverty eliminating slums and promoting smart villages for rural development”, the IWC19 will be held on 12th April, 2019, at United Nations Headquarters.
Infopoverty has fought poverty for 18 years, thanks to ICTs, and it has created innovative solutions and models such as the ICT villages founded in various countries, e.g. the Millennium Village of Sambaina in Madagascar (2006) and the World Health & Food Security e-Center, which can provide telemedicine, food security and e-learning services to the poorest rural communities. Now Infopoverty pays attention to urban communities, where poverty is endemic, making it difficult to live together and destroying the basis of human values. In fact, the redemption of poverty in rural communities will be imaginable if the resources of the land are properly used, while in cities the spectre of the “human jungle” is represented by slums and favelas where millions of people and minors are left alone in precariousness and in a devastating human and physical decline.
On the one hand, especially in Africa, the demographic pressure applied from the countryside to formless urban areas, makes agricultural production poor. On the other hand, it increases the mass of marginalized people, due to the absence of work in urban area: this risks the onslaught of “social time-bombs” capable of destabilizing very fragile governance structures and provoking other strong waves of migration affecting all the developed countries.
The digital revolution has, to some extent, accelerated these dynamics, interconnecting everyone and opening virtual frontiers. This revolution should address such issues, not orientating its solutions to the wealthy classes but principally to all those possessing a mobile phone (practically everybody) and can take advantage of the immense potentialities in terms of services of health care and distance nutrition support. If this prospective does not appeal to stakeholders (“the poor do not produce profits”), we must record an extraordinary impulse towards Smart Cities, which are the object of very strong investments, research and exciting innovations. The digital revolution is striding ahead: starting from mobility, with the prospect of automatic driving, arriving at the management of infrastructures, domotics, energy sources, e-governance etc. It is changing socio-economic structures through processes of disruption, which, for the new generations, are destabilizing. In this context, where the search for short-term loans causes systemic crises in various classes and territories, we need to relaunch the question posed at our IWC12 “Who drives the digital Revolution?” If only private enterprise leads, inevitably the needs of billions of indigent people will continue to be neglected and have in consequence unimaginable repercussions globally.
Therefore a new vision is necessary in order to give the digital revolution concrete perspectives and to be more adherent to human emergencies specified in the SDG, proclaimed by the UN in 2015. Governments must lead this process aimed at directing innovation towards solving the problems of the masses (in need), indicating priority objectives and appropriate forms of incentives, and absolutely avoiding the well-known distortion already acted out in the previous industrial revolution, where the delirium for power of the few led to the creation of new and devastating weapons employed in wars that criminally caused the humanitarian tragedies of the twentieth century.
This premise well introduces the topic of the 19th Infopoverty conference: how smart city can fight poverty, eliminating slums and promoting smart villages for rural development. In the agenda of the conference that will take place at the UN headquarters in NY, the topic of Smart City at the UN is not presented as the “apotheosis of new super technologies”, making lives of the wealthiest people more pleasant and stimulating the consumption of luxury goods, but is presented as a challenge to eliminate slums, replacing them with possible, foreseeable building and housing solutions. Furthermore, Smart Cities should be aimed at integrating towns and territories, transferring technologies, knowledge and services from towns to the surrounding rural communities in order to provide citizens with necessary sustenance. Thus, they represent a circular economy model, which can create great working and development opportunities.
Creating an organic relationship between the ICT-Villages (the models for which have already been successfully tested in Borji et Touil, the model village of the WSIS of Tunisia in 2005) and Smart Cities means recommending highly effective development policies, especially in Africa. Such policies can eliminate the need for charity and attract solid investments, both in terms of facilities and commodities and in terms of infrastructure and housing. They can also contribute to the growth of these countries, aiming at enhancing their raw materials and human resources, and at the creation of forms of welfare that ensure primary health care, education and support for food development for everyone, as well as forms of economic exchange through digital solutions already validated thanks to the block chain. This is the challenge that the 19th Infopoverty World Conference sets at the UN Headquarter, involving the best thinkers (innovators, heads of public and private institutions, universities and research centres, large companies) in order to focus on convergent and easily applicable solutions at minimum cost, as a concrete and feasible contribution of the digital world to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs of the UN.