Access to data and information, and the transition to a more digitally enabled way of working, have been crucial to effective COVID19 response at the household, business and city scales. How are cities enhancing their capacity to improve digital and data enabled tools and strategies, and to reflect on what has worked well so far, to provide the platform for an inclusive and flexible recovery?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, rapid digital transitions have been a key factor in how cities have sought to mitigate the impact of the crisis. Municipalities have rapidly transitioned to remote working and re-established governance mechanisms online. In Tel Aviv-Yafo, the city expanded the pre-existing digital platform by 300% in approximately 1.5 weeks, and leveraged the tech start-up muscle of Tel Aviv to develop new digital tools to contain the pandemic. In Louisville, the transition to remote working enabled the city to make significant changes to answering help lines, achieving 0.5% of call abandonment and 8 seconds answer times, down from 20% and 20 minutes.
Learning from Wuhan, China and Pune, India used spatial mapping and analysis to track and respond to dynamic changes in COVID-19 cases across wards and sub-wards, with data being generated through over 800,000 household survey in hotspot areas. In Singapore, vulnerable seniors that are not digitally connected received Trace Together tokens which are convenient, light, and easier to use and do not need charging and mobile connection. Singapore also deploys Safe Entry – a national digital check in system – to enter venues to enable contact tracing. In the Dominican Republic, VISA to disburse emergency fund, limited banking access in Dominican, using identity card. Meanwhile, Milan, London, Belfast and other cities are making the best of the technology to better involve citizens and allow governments to better serve their needs.
In the context of COVID-19, the importance of digital inclusion has become crucial since technological innovation is emerging as a key response to the crisis. In Barcelona the city is targeting the digital divide by ensuring access to internet and digital services as part of dignified living conditions and equal opportunities, investing USD 600,000 to enhance the digital capabilities of local retail and restaurants, and support SMEs to produce their own digitalization plan. The municipality of Salvador, in Brazil, has launched a call for challenges related to women and technology. It intends to select small businesses led by women that promote digital inclusion and the use of new technology to tackle social problems in the city. And in Bangkok a community and interactive platform is exchanging employment and business opportunities, especially with focus on small and local businesses.
In Dallas, a Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool was developed which mapped postal (or zip) codes against social determinants of health data – race and ethnicity, poverty, home ownership, age and socio-economic vulnerability – which highlighted high overlaps between these vulnerability indicators with the highest rates of COVID-19 positive cases. The results of this assessment will be used to track progress through recovery across the four priority areas: Digital divide; Housing stability; Equitable health access; and financial security.
Amidst the lockdown measures imposed in Dominican Republic during COVID-19, vulnerable populations were faced with multiple challenges including poor information about the governments “Stay at Home”, and low levels of banking access for the most vulnerable citizens due to irregular banking hours and difficulty leaving houses during lockdown. In response, and in order to enable access to the subsidy among the vulnerable class, Dominican Republic’s state bank Banreservas and Visa collaborated to explore an efficient way to distribute emergency funds to more than 770,000 vulnerable families, who were restricted inside their houses due to the strict quarantine measures.
Practice: Hear from Metropolitan Coordination Institution in Guadalajara on different ways of utilizing data, technology and partnership with academics to empower the decision maker to take sensible decision from Cities on the Frontline #17 Metropolitan Resilience
Lesson: Smart and Resilient Digital Infrastructure Rotterdam Rotterdam has a Smart City program which aims to provide fiber optic cables and 5G for citizens and SMEs. The goal of this program is to close the digital divide and support vulnerable communities. There are also COVID specific responses including providing laptops and wifi routers for students at home, mobile data subscriptions for women in socially undesirable family situations, and launching crowd monitoring services.
Opinion: The role of technology in building more resilient cities how data insights are critical to help ensure cities adjust and recover by alternative means as quickly as possible, and plan smarter for the future.
How To: Toolkit for Resilient Recovery – Recovery Resilience Assessment – Combining data driven process and perception of various stakeholders at different levels for recovery planning
Lesson: Stories, data, and plans: Preparing for the next pandemic – Communities should invest in structures and stories to keep the collective memory of past disasters alive and setting up systems in advance for quick and efficient data sharing.
Lesson: Four strategies for helping women in fragile settings succeed in the digital economy The Click-On Kaduna program in Nigeria offers valuable insights for women in fragile settings to succeed in the digital economy.
Practice: Concept Paper | Resilient Cities Shaping a Digital World The first steps toward understanding the challenges and opportunities of Latin American and Caribbean cities from a digital lens– to be better able to take more informed resilient actions and start imagining digital strategies to strengthen resilience.
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