Our City, Our Future

Thriving, harmonious, efficient, safe, resilient & green: words that we dream of when planning our cities of the future. Across Asia, governments, communities and businesses are moving to realise the dreams of people with many eco-city projects under development. This gives us an insight into Asian models for sustainable development.

Cities are currently responsible for more than 70 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and opportunistically also represent a key force in reducing emissions and resource consumption. Sustainable development requires bold action, while also strengthening the local economy and creating a better place to live.

Courtesy of WiNG via Wikipedia

Courtesy of WiNG via Wikipedia

In identifying a unique Asian model of sustainable development, the Tianjin Eco-city a Sino-Singapore flagship project is a good case study to explore. Not yet fully constructed and recovering from the deadly August industrial explosion, the vision of Tianjin was defined to be “A thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient – a model for sustainable development”. This vision is brought together by the concepts of the Three Harmonies and the Three Abilities.

The Three Harmonies involves creating an eco-city where:

  1. People living in harmony with other people;
  2. People living in harmony with economic activities;
  3. People living in harmony with the environment.

Three Abilities requires an eco-city to be:

  1. Practicable – the technologies adopted in the Eco-city must be affordable and commercially viable;
  2. Replicable – the principles and models of the Eco-city could be applied to other cities in China and even in other countries;
  3. Scalable – the principles and models could be adapted for another project or development of a different scale.
Courtesy of Blick vom Fernsehturm Richtung via de.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of Blick vom Fernsehturm Richtung via de.wikipedia.org

Another case for achieving sustainable development from government was shown in the city of Sanya in China. Along China’s southern cost of tropical beaches and tourism resorts, Sanya took an ambitious plan to do a stock measurement of the value of its ecosystem services in 2005. After 15 years of immense economic development, the city leaders decided on a new green growth plan which would incorporate natural capital accounting alongside their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

A famous quote by US President Robert Kennedy says that the standard measure of our economies GDP “…measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”. Natural capital accounting is a prominent step in sustainable development, and it involves measuring a range of ecosystem services in a city or town that we would not usually measure in our GDP.

Natural capital is the land, air, water, living organisms, and ecosystem goods and services that we rely on for survival and wellbeing. Our cities, businesses and communities receive some immense economic benefits from ecosystem services, such as New York City’s water supply. Manhattan, in New York, gets its primary source of drinking water from an update source, which was threatened by urban sprawl. The city decided to spend $1.5 billion to preserve 80,000 acres of natural landscapes to avoid paying $8 billion for a water filtration plant costing more than $300 million per year to run. Forests for example, play a role in stabilising sediment and excess nutrients from waterways. A forest wetland can filter water at approximately one-seventh of the cost with basic maintenance per thousand gallons than conventional wastewater treatment systems.

By considering these vital services from nature, Sanyo was able to make some important decisions on how they plan infrastructure and industry growth to ensure community wellbeing and sustainable development. This led to the creation of the below map where red zones represent areas decreasing in natural value, orange slightly declining and green zones increasing. Sanya valued their natural capital at approximately $40 billion (USD), 5.6 times their local GDP in 2013.

Since it’s first ecosystem measurement in 2005, Sanya has been growing its economy and the value of their natural capital stocks and their provided services (eco-tourism from coral reefs). Since tracking the change in natural capital, Sanya has been able to demonstrate the growth in its economy shown as GDP in red, natural resources shown in blue and ecosystem services shown in green from 2005 to 2013. Sanyo is able to holistically develop its quality of life in real terms beyond income measures.

Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon describes in his work the five ‘tectonic stresses’ which are bearing down on civilization: climate change; energy scarcity; environmental degradation; and intense conflict from urbanised megacities; and the extreme economic imbalance throughout the world. The enormity of these issues I know overwhelms many people still today and we struggle with how to begin to set our cities on the path to sustainable development.

Pushing beyond these enormous challenges of the world, my eternal optimism re-imagines sustainable development as going back to the basics and recultivating new approaches for empowering communities towards sustainable development. It is essential that we connect and communicate stories with people to inspire them to act and motivate change–stories about local communities and initiatives, which are green and bold. Communication is the key and the catalyst for broad social change.

I identify with this sustainability movement that is focussed on creativity, family, community, fun and reflection. Through innovative and decisive initiatives, vision and a sense of community, we can realise much success with sustainable development.


By Grant Duthie
Grant is from Australia who has lived and worked in Asia studying the cultural drivers, new social perspectives and trends in Asia-Pacific urban communities. Through his experience in social living environments, Grant writes on regional urban themes on his blog Urban Billion https://urbanbillion.wordpress.com/.


Improving Energy Efficiency of Street Lighting

Improving the energy efficiency of street lighting is perhaps one of the easiest ways for a city to reduce costs for energy consumption and tackle climate change. Many cities in the Asia-Pacific region have exploited this great potential and successfully retrofitted their street lighting with efficient technologies.

By replacing old inefficient lamps with new lighting technologies (retrofitting), cities such as Akola, India managed to reduce the electricity consumption of street lighting by over 55 % (2,100 MWh per year) and save annually over USD 130,000 in electricity bills. With a project payback period of less than a year, Akola financed the retrofit through an energy saving performance contracting model. The contractor, an energy service company, used cost savings from reduced energy consumption to compensate the investment. Financing mechanisms such as energy performance contracting, utilize private expertise and investment, allowing cities to achieve energy savings without upfront capital expenses and the use of limited budgetary resources. Akola’s successful approach in improving the energy efficiency of its street lighting has led – with support of the World Bank – to several other similar projects in India (Read more).

Many other cities in Asia are improving the energy efficiency of street lighting. Seoul, Korea aims to replace all public lights (streetlights, security lights, traffic lights and lights in public buildings) and 65% of private lighting with highly energy efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) by 2018. Two other CityNet members – Surabaya, Indonesia and Da Nang, Vietnam – have identified and prioritized street lighting as energy sector with great potential of saving energy, costs and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Both cities were pilots in the World Bank’s Sustainable Urban Energy and Emissions Planning (SUEEP) program. With the support of the World Bank’s SUEEP and Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) Surabaya and Da Nang are developing solutions to improve their energy infrastructure and combat climate change.

Street Lighting in Seoul, Courtesy of Trey Ratcliff https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/300928932)

Street Lighting in Seoul, Courtesy of Trey Ratcliff (https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/300928932)

Despite various excellent practice examples, in many cities the great saving potential of improving street lighting remains untapped. Many cities in the Asia-Pacific region could save over 50 % of their energy consumption and costs if they choose to replace old lamps with LEDs. However, some cities are still wasting more than 10 % of their overall budgets for inefficient public lighting – even though they have to carefully and sustainably spend their limited resources for various other public services.

Street lighting retrofit projects are the ‘low hanging fruit’ of climate change mitigation projects. They are one of the most cost-effective ways in reduction of electricity consumption and GHG-emissions, very feasible, attract private investment, enable cities to save money and can be easily replicated.

By Felix Kalkowsky

With a background in urban planning Felix had worked as a climate change mitigation manager for a local government in Germany before he joined CityNet.

Buses Mean Business

Rapid private vehicle ownership and fast population growth have stretched city infrastructure thinly over the last few decades. The need to regenerate urban boundaries has seen a massive uptake in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems that provide out of the box solutions that are favourable with citizens. BRT systems provide several economic benefits such as a lower investment to operating costs ratio, efficient performance, fast construction turnaround as well as greater flexibility with the usage of existing roads. Challenges still remain nonetheless on improving boarding techniques, vehicle design to accommodate more passengers at higher speeds, route and timetable management and express lane construction costs. Since the pioneering Curitiba, Brazil, BRT system in the 1970s, which propelled a global trend, many more system innovations have been brought to life, which I would like to share.

A notable BRT implementation strategy was deployed in Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya, which aimed to reach more than 80% of city residents and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.6 million tonnes by 2020. In a city dominated by private taxi and minibus vehicles, the BRT required extensive collaboration between the government and operators to ensure smooth and efficient implementation. To manage the re-distribution of public transport users to the BRT, the city of Johannesburg allocated all of its company shares to the independent taxi operators. Similarly during its construction, ‘Corridors of Freedom’ were established to ensure priority routes were established among poorer communities to foster more system engagement. Re-fits of the station shells have delivered revolutionary value such as large identifiable station markers to improve accessibility containing touch screen information podiums on routes, times and support. Automated door opening systems at stations ensure more comfortable passenger experiences minimising roadside pollutants, weather impacts and noise. The enclosed station shell format allows for voice-overs to support accessibility with future potential to accommodate different language supports.

Rea Vaya stop in Johannesburg CBD on Commissioner Street at Ntemi Piliso Street, Courtesy of Keizers https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rea_Vaya_stop_in_CBD.JPG

Rea Vaya stop in Johannesburg CBD on Commissioner Street at Ntemi Piliso Street, Courtesy of Keizers https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rea_Vaya_stop_in_CBD.JPG

One of the fastest BRT systems is located in Adelaide, Australia through an investment in guided bus technology lanes forming what is termed the Adelaide O-Bahn. The specially built track system combines elements of both bus and rail infrastructure with an L-shaped track resting on sleepers that keeps bus movement steady and higher speeds safer. It works by locking in place with a guide-wheels cushioning buses on the track. The guided bus technology allows for an average BRT speed of 80km/h and a maximum speed of 100km/h. A number of interchanges along the system allows buses to enter and exit the busway and continue on suburban routes providing more comfort for passengers with direct routes. Along the O-Bahn system, station stops are infrequent with its core aim to deliver express services with the interchanges allowing transfers into more frequent suburban stops.

Example of Guided Technology: Stagecoach in Huntingdonshire bus, Courtesy of Bob Castle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guided_bus_Oakington_to_Longstanton.jpg

Example of Guided Technology: Stagecoach in Huntingdonshire bus, Courtesy of Bob Castle https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guided_bus_Oakington_to_Longstanton.jpg

The Guangzhou BRT system represents one of the first systems in China to engage with the multi-modal system to integrate with metro trains as well as a bike share system and bike parking facilities integrated into the design. It maintains a direct service system rather than a trunk model, meaning passengers do not need to transfer and the buses come in and out of the corridor. The corridor has focused on developing plazas around the BRT system, which integrate well with the bicycle facilities. An integrated contactless card the Yang Cheng Tong can be used to store value on it and pay for the bus fare at the turnstiles to the bus terminal and can also be used to collect and pay for a bicycle.

Guangzhou GBRT Tianhe Sports Center Station, Courtesy of Efilm https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GBRT_Tianhe_Sports_Center.JPG

Guangzhou GBRT Tianhe Sports Center Station, Courtesy of Efilm https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GBRT_Tianhe_Sports_Center.JPG

The Brisbane, Australia BRT system maintains an operating strategy focusing on a trunk bus route that runs the full length of the route to a main interchange point usually the business district. The system was developed to complement robust pre-existing urban rail for a multi-modal system and thereby providing a consistent and standardised interchange point across suburbs and the main business district. To accommodate BRT growth, major infrastructure works have provided express BRT lanes as well as underground corridors for greater connectivity. This core inner-city infrastructure supports a dynamic network of suburban networks that provide a wide catchment and on-street pick-up points.

Exterior view of Greenslopes busway station, Courtesy of Reubot https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greenslopes_busway_station.jpg

Exterior view of Greenslopes busway station, Courtesy of Reubot https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greenslopes_busway_station.jpg

One of the upcoming underground tunnels represents a world first combined dual bus and train track into a single, double-decked, 15m-wide tunnel. By managing both rail and bus simultaneously, the project drives cost-efficiency and extends the infrastructure’s usage lifespan.  Similarly, the system runs a number of high-frequency express services that improve interconnectivity and connection synergy across other transport modes in the city. The Brisbane system maintains a notable high-quality station design with grade-separated pedestrian access between platforms and covered overpasses with accessibility lift. Buses also utilise low-floor designs and fold-out ramps which connect up with station platforms to improve accessibility for people with a disability. Similarly the system is heavily deploying natural gas powered buses which lowers road-side pollutants and irritants for passengers making the journey more comfortable.

The BRT systems provide significant support to infill development and transit-oriented developments to manage urban sprawl. In the case of the Brisbane BRT systems property value growth of up to 20% was identified in bus route corridors. Significant in-fill development was recorded around the routes as well as property values in area within 6 miles of stations growing at 2-3 times faster than those at a greater distance. Brisbane has recorded some strong increases in density growth in the inner-urban areas that are well connected and served with the BRT. The Brisbane BRT performs both a central CBD radial function from sprawling suburban areas on the edge of Brisbane to the CBD as well as a short distance function to provide traffic-free, fast, high-quality city links. BRT is considered a far more versatile and flexible technology system to serve spread-out development patterns than urban rail or car and can assist in slowing down urban sprawl and extending infrastructure lifespan. This is further incentivised by a reduce travel time from the suburbs to the City reduced from 60 minutes on the motorway to an 18 minute express service. The flexibility, efficiency and latest technology in BRT ensures that it is a consistent mode of choice for rapidly growing cities in the Asia-Pacific. The scope and system innovations since Curitiba provide strong support for the continued roll-out of BRT systems into the future.


By Grant Duthie
Grant is from Australia who has lived and worked in Asia studying the cultural drivers, new social perspectives and trends in Asia-Pacific urban communities. Through his experience in social living environments, Grant writes on regional urban themes on his blog Urban Billion https://urbanbillion.wordpress.com/.

Insights of Songdo, Ubiquitous City

After our first field trip to Seoul to learn about the water and waste management, this time, we- Hee-Soo Joo and Jamie (Jisoo) Lee- had the chance to visit Songdo to explore the global and ubiquitous city with our CityNet Secretariat colleagues- Pipin Kurniawaty (CityNet secondment staff from Sidoarjo, Indonesia), Marina Brenden, Sayel Cortes (CityNet Program Officers), Gloria Song, Felix Kalkowsky (CityNet interns). Songdo is the Incheon’s special district that has grown as an international business region and a highly advanced ubiquitous city. Among many remarkable landmarks in Songdo, we write about our visits to the G Tower, U-City Center, IFEZ promotion center, and the Compact Smart City Museum.

G-Tower, the Hub for International Organizations and Smart City Projects

The first place we visited was the G-Tower, that is located in the international business district. The G-Tower is known as a hub for international organizations such as GCF (Green Climate Fund), UNESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), UNISDR (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction), and more. Also, there is a library of international organizations, which is the United Nations Depository Library, on the 2nd floor of the building. During our visit, we had the opportunity to meet officials from UNISDR and GCF. It was a valuable time for us to learn about two international organizations and also to gain career advices from professionals. G-Tower not only serves as a hub for international organizations, but it also takes upon the role to promote IFEZ (Incheon Free Economic Zone) and Incheon’s Ubiquitous City program.

CityNet representatives at Songdo

CityNet representatives with Andrew Macelroy, an official of the UNISDR Global Education and Training Institute for DRR

Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), a Global Business Hub

Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) Promotion Center is located on the 33rd floor G-Tower Observation Deck. It has a nice view of the city, so we could witness the development process of Songdo. The Free Economic Zone guarantees free economic activities within the area, where international businesses receive tax benefits, high-quality administration service, and comfortable living environment. IFEZ consists of Songdo, Cheongna, and Yeongjong that are targets to develop into unique and futuristic cities. In addition, the cities are growing with increased foreign investment. In fact, 75 multinational corporations from 15 countries have invested in IFEZ. As global cities, they also host cultural events and activities for citizens and foreigners. IFEZ Promotion Center gave us an opportunity to witness how Incheon City is developing into a ‘Green Smart City’ that satisfies international business needs while promoting a green and high-quality life.

G-Tower Observation Deck

The view from the G-Tower Observation Deck

U-City Center: future city, a beautiful city made from technology

We learned and observed the Ubiquitous City (U-City) project and U-City operation center at the IFEZ U-City Center. The U-City project focuses on utilizing advanced ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) to integrate ubiquitous environments in urban areas in order to increase the efficacy of the urban management. Other terms that have been used for similar concepts include ‘Smart city’, ‘digital city’, and ‘electronic city’. The goal of U-City is not only to preserve the natural environment but also to enhance the quality of residential life with advanced technology.  There are various U-services and infrastructure provided by the public and private sectors. Especially, the Public U-Services of Incheon include U-traffic, U-crime control, U-facilities, U-disaster control, U-environment, and information provision to citizens. These services are based on ICT technologies and utilized in the U-City Operation Center that is a fundamental infrastructure bureau. In other words, U-city model is planning and managing the future city based on highly advanced ICT, which makes it possible to solve many urban problems quickly and efficiently.

U-City Operation Center

U-City Operation Center

Compact ∙ Smart City Museum: the Time Travel to the City of Incheon

We also had a chance to explore the historical development stages and future plan of Incheon City in the Compact∙Smart City Museum. Touring this museum felt like as if we were time travelling through Incheon’s history. We explored the development process of Songdo, Yeongjong, and Cheongna areas while touring the IFEZ Miniature Hall. Each of three areas has its own urban theme depending on its neighborhood; Songdo as an international city of cutting-edge technology, Yeongjong as the city of aviation and harbor, and Cheongna as the city of international finance and leisure. We learned about various urban development plans and projects that Incheon city has been working on, such as ‘2020 Incheon City Planning’, ‘Songdo Landmark City’, ‘Yeongjong Sky City’ and ‘Cheongna Robot Land’. We also had the opportunity to experience the U-city service such as U-Shop. With U-Shop application function embedded in the refrigerator, people can buy food and daily necessity at home by simply clicking the items and paying for them. In other words, Incheon city will provide more effective and convenient services with the highly advanced technology for citizens to enhance their life quality in the future.

Incheon Miniature Hall

Incheon Miniature Hall


By Hee-Soo Joo & Jamie (Jisoo) Lee
CityNet Intern Heesoo Joo

Hee-Soo Joo, CityNet Intern
Hee-Soo, soon to be graduated from the Public Administration at Seoul National University, has experience as a researcher at the Smart Society Research Center focusing on sustainable urban development and smart city.

CityNet Intern Jamie Lee

Jamie (Jisoo) Lee, CityNet Intern
Jamie is a recent graduate from University of Washington with Political Economy major interested in foreign aid, SDGs, and comparative politics.

Insights into Seoul’s Water and Waste Management

This July, we – Pipin Kurniawaty (CityNet’s secondment staff from Sidoarjo, Indonesia), Gloria Song, Heesoo Joo, Jisoo Lee, Felix Kalkowsky (CityNet interns) – had the opportunity to explore some of Seoul’s most remarkable infrastructure projects. Accompanied by our colleagues Mr. Hyoungjun Ahn and Ms. Jaeyoo Hyeon we visited the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center in Seoul Forest, the Mapo Resource Recovery Facility and the Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park.

Seoul Forest & Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center

We started our field trip with a cycling tour through Seoul Forest. The forest is located at the northern shore of the Han River on Ttukseom (Ttuk Island). Stretching over 1.16 million m² of land, Seoul Forest consists of five parks: a Cultural Art Park, an Ecological Forest, a Nature Experience Study Field, Wetlands Ecological Field, and Han River Waterside Park. On the one hand, Seoul Forest is a natural habitat for wildlife animals and has an important ecological function. On the other hand, it is a recreational area that offers also educational services such as an outdoor nature classroom, a bird observatory and various playgrounds. Initially, Seoul Forest had served as hunting grounds for the royal family. More recently it had been used as golf course, horse racing track, and sports park until it was redeveloped as a recreational area and reopened for the public in 2005.
Blog_Field trip_photo 1

Cycling through Seoul Forest is a good way to explore the different parks. However, on a hot summer day it is important to stay hydrated, and therefore our next stop was the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Center. At the center we could revitalize ourselves with fresh water. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to learn more about the purification process of the potable water we use every day. As the first water purification plant built in Korea, the facility has been supplying Seoul’s residents with drinking water from the Han River since 1908. Today, equipped with the latest technology and with a daily capacity of 750,000 m3, the Ttukdo Arisu Water Purification Plant supplies averagely 1.16 million residents with 400,000 m3 water per day. Furthermore the plant provides water for the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Blog_Field trip_photo 3

At the facility, which is operated by the Office of Waterworks of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, we could observe the different phases and applied filtering technologies of the comprehensive water purification process. To guarantee excellent water quality the processed water is constantly being monitored. Through the Seoul Water [Quality] Now System, Seoul’s citizens can access water quality information (turbidity, pH and residual chlorine) in real-time.

small_Blog_Field trip_photo 10


Mapo Resource Recovery Facility & Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park
The Mapo Resource Recovery Facility was established in 2005 with a purpose to incinerate waste safely, processing 750 tons of waste load every day. The facility is located on a site, once a landfill called Nanji Island which contained approximately 92 million tons of garbage. Within the capital city Seoul, five resource recovery facilities process through the immense amount of general waste on a daily basis. The Mapo Resource Recovery Facility is not the largest waste incinerating facility however is one of the most significant operating facilities with its far advanced functions. With a turbine generator installed in 2011, the facility can cogenerate heat and electricity.

The facility uses the electricity it generates to power its operations and feeds the surplus into the electricity grid. The cogenerated heat is utilized by the Korea District Heating Corporation, which supplies neighboring households with district heating. Moreover, the ashes collected after the incineration process is sent to the Rotary Kiln to produce bricks. Overall, thanks to high advanced equipment and efficient usage of waste, the final reclaimed waste is only at 3%.

The Mapo facility is capable of capturing and destroying most of the toxic emissions including carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and dioxins, creating a safer and cleaner environment for the city. Mapo Resource Recovery Facility is an exemplary model in waste-to-energy practices that portrays the critical reason of recycling and facilitating efficient measures for solid waste treatment.


For our last field observation, we headed over to the Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park; an ecological park and one of the World Cup Parks that opened in 2002. The park was another part of the 15-year-old landfill that transformed into a beautiful camping site for visitors today. In order to prevent waste runoff and contamination of the surrounding environment, it took six years to stabilize the landfill with precautionary measures.

Electric vehicles are available to reach the top of the hill where the park is located. Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park is an open ground for camping and the other side of the hill is Haneul ‘Sky’ Park. Both parks provide a remarkable view of the Han River and the capital Seoul. It was difficult to believe such a beautiful area once was a landfill for so long. It truly is another substantial example that a cleaner and greener approach is feasible to better provide the public.

Further information

Seoul Forest:

Mapo Resource Recovery Facility:
http://english.seoul.go.kr/mapo-resource-recovery-plant-2/ (English video content included)

Noeul ‘Sunset’ Park:

By Gloria Song & Felix Kalkowsky

Gloria Song, CityNet Intern
Gloria is from Fairfax, Virginia and is a graduate in Interpretation and Translation at Seoul University of Foreign Studies (SUFS) focusing toward sustainable development.


Felix Kalkowsky, CityNet Intern
With a background in urban planning Felix had worked as a climate change mitigation manager for a local government in Germany before he joined CityNet.

Looking Back So Nepal Can Move Forward

The recent series of earthquakes in Nepal caused yet another tragic disaster in the Asia Pacific region. While there can be little consolation for those affected by the catastrophic events, an opportunity has arisen for Nepal to rebuild safer and more resilient human settlements. In order to turn this opportunity into a reality, lessons must be learned from the past.


As Nepal moves from emergency aid to the process of long-term reconstruction, local communities, national and city governments, and international actors can learn valuable knowledge from previous responses to disasters in order to replicate successes and avoid making the same mistakes. Following the 2004 tsunami which devastated Banda Aceh, Indonesia, reconstruction plans were implemented under the ‘build back better’ principle. One project deemed successful provided homeowners cash grants and technical assistance in the form of locally trained engineers to oversee reconstruction of their houses. Involving women in the rebuilding process led to a higher prioritization of safety and better compliance with building standards. While learning from such success stories is important, it may be just as critical to recognize the shortcomings of relief efforts. For example, there is evidence that the influx of foreign aid in Aceh led to a distortion of the local economy and weakened social cohesion.

How might Nepal be able to adopt past reconstruction successes to its own unique context and avoid the negative outcomes that have followed other disasters? Increased knowledge-sharing, enhancing coordination among various actors, and providing more expertise are areas that can improve the outcomes of all relief operations. International networks play a key role in helping to strengthen these critical and challenging aspects of humanitarian aid.


During CityNet’s 7th Disaster Cluster Seminar in August 2014, participants visited a disaster response simulation in Yokohama, Japan.


Closing ceremony of the CityNet Community-based Adaptation and Resilience Against Disasters Project in Iloilo, Philippines

Since 2004, CityNet’s disaster cluster has been active in connecting cities across Asia to improve capacity building in urban areas vulnerable to natural disasters. A fundraising account has been set up to support the people of Nepal. CityNet will collect donations until June 10th. The total amount will be transferred to the CityNet Nepal National Chapter Office who will disburse the funds based on priority and needs of affected districts. Below are the details of the account. We greatly appreciate your support in helping to rebuild a safer environment and provide hope for the people of Nepal.


Account Name: Charity Fund CITYNET Yokohama Project Office Teruhiko Okada
Account Number: 3959322
Account Type: Ordinary
Bank Name: The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd
Swift Code: BOTKJPJT
Branch Name: Yokohama branch
Branch Number: 480
Branch Address: 27-1, Honcho 3-chome, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0005, Japan


By Mark Fagundes
Mark is from Northern California and received his Master’s degree in International Development Cooperation from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, Korea.

Smartphone Apps Improving Cities across Asia

Throughout the world, a growing number of innovative apps are being used to create safer, healthier, and more sustainable cities. As the price of smart phones continues to drop, apps are becoming an increasingly important tool in developing countries to solve urban challenges. Apps have the potential to not only connect citizens to one another, but to link residents with their local governments. Across the Asia Pacific region, from Kathmandu to Kerala, apps are helping to push forward social development and create more livable cities.

One example is Safetipin, an app which helps create safer urban environments by quantifying the relative safety of neighborhoods. Launched in New Delhi in 2013, Safetipin collects crowdsourced data which allow users and local governments to better understand safety concerns within their city. The information can also be used as an important tool for civic organizations to advocate for change. By creating a safety score for various localities, Safetipin allows users to access knowledge of public infrastructure, amenities, and vulnerability to crime when going out on the town or moving to a new neighborhood. The score is based upon nine safety parameters: lighting, openness, visibility, population density, security personnel, walking paths, transportation, gender diversity, and general feeling. The ability to access accurate safety information at one’s fingertips is particularly important for improving the safety of women in cities. Safetipin also provides a feature which allows tracking the location of a friend or family member who has enabled the “Track Me” button. In case of a crisis, victims are able to sound the alert for swift assistance.

The development of apps like Safetipin is often a result of promoting innovation and creativity among young people. Last year, CityNet partnered with Microsoft to organize the first CityApp Appathon in Kathmandu. The event included 103 developers from across Nepal working to solve the country’s biggest urban challenges. The top 5 applications had the opportunity to participate in an incubation period through the resources and expertise of Microsoft Innovation Center Nepal (MIC). The final winning application, TrackMandu, tracks traffic flows through a crowded city. As their prize, the winning team presented their application to a global audience at the World Cities Summit in Singapore. Following the success of CityApp Kathmandu, the second CityApp was held in Makassar, Indonesia in October 2014. Over 400 students created apps addressing issues that included unemployment, social security, healthcare, education, waste management, skills training and workforce development, green spaces, public housing and city safety. The winning app was a crowdsourcing app that addressed unemployment by making a database of relevant, local skills training and job opportunities available to job seekers. CityApp provides an opportunity for local young IT professionals to use their skills and innovative prowess to help empower urban residents to improve their cities.

Technological solutions to urban challenges will also be promoted this summer in Seoul, Korea at the Seoul Global Hackathon. This event, held in partnership with Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and Global Hackathon (GH) will gather two thousand IT developers and designers from around the world to develop new technologies for the greater good. The event will be accompanied by a job fair and international conference. The recruitment of global applicants will continue until the end of this month. To register for the event or to find out more information, visit http://seoul.globalhackathon.io/.



By Mark Fagundes
Mark is from Northern California and received his Master’s degree in International Development Cooperation from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, Korea.