Local innovation acknowledged on global platform for creating a more sustainable world

Posted by Michael Wolf on October 21, 2016

A mobile inspection tool designed to improve service delivery in low income areas has been selected for the 2016 Sustainia100, a global campaign created to identify the best solutions and projects for “a more sustainable world and a better tomorrow”.

Now in its fifth year, the annual Sustainia100 publication acknowledges sustainable solutions from around the world that address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by providing social, financial, and environmental returns.

Among the global contenders is the Cityspec Mobile App, which is being developed by Cape Town-based design agency Formula D interactive in partnership and for the Public Benefit Organisation Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU). CITYSPEC uses mobile technology to aid VPUU and its partner municipalities to effectively monitor public infrastructure, help identify basic service delivery problems, and assist in improving access to clean and safe water and sanitation, which affect the livelihood of millions of people.

“Access to clean and safe water and sanitation is an undeniable human right.” (SAHRC, 2014)

Many people live in extremely harsh conditions in Cape Town’s informal settlements. Rapid urban growth comes with increasingly difficult challenges to maintain the standard of basic service delivery. Communities live with poorly maintained toilets, taps and street lights.
VPUU uses the Cityspec mobile technology to help trained community workers report on the status (working or broken) of infrastructure, take photos, and capture GPS data of infrastructure in real-time. The system’s backbone is a cloud-based administration and reporting centre, allowing users to create and track inspections and monitor the status of infrastructure on an ongoing basis. This provides all the information needed for rapid reporting to municipal departments and immediate remedial work.

“Cityspec puts the power of basic service monitoring in informal settlements in the hands of community workers, enabling us to bring about safe, well managed, and socially activated public spaces,” explains Michael Krause, Chief Executive Officer of VPUU.

“Our partnership with VPUU is a model for success. We bring together their experience of working with municipalities and poor communities, with Formula D’s expertise of technology and human-centred design,” says Michael Wolf, Founder and Creative Director of Formula D interactive.

The need for an electronic system became obvious in VPUU’s work in 2011, where trained community workers inspected public infrastructure on a regular basis in order to help the City of Cape Town maintain and repair items. Prior to Cityspec, the system was exclusively paper-based, labour intensive, and admin-laden. Furthermore, the original system did not easily collect geolocation data in relation to faults, which has proven very valuable in enabling repair teams to find faults in the field as well as identify hotspots for recurring faults. Cityspec is being piloted and further developed in VPUU programme areas until June 2018 after which the app will be made available for low-income municipalities and civil organisations globally to help monitor basic service delivery in the most vulnerable of communities. Morten Nielsen, Managing Director of Sustainia, says the Sustainia100 showcases the “most compelling and successful solutions” that “tackle multiple challenges, and global goals, in one go”.

From health solutions that tackle climate change, to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality, more than 1,200 solutions were identified globally – and more than half of those shortlisted come from the SME sector.

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