Global perspective Human stories

$15 million grant to help UN habitat agency monitor urban growth

$15 million grant to help UN habitat agency monitor urban growth

The United Nations programme dealing with human settlements and the problems of rapid urbanization has received a $15 million grant that will equip 1,000 cities in developing countries with computerized systems to help gather, synthesise and analyse geographic information.

An ambitious grants initiative has earmarked the money for the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to provide local authorities in developing countries with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) - sophisticated technology and training which will enable them to better manage urban areas and target their development policies.

"Most local authorities in the developing world have outdated information about the state of their cities," UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka said. "If we are going to improve the living conditions of the urban poor, city authorities must be provided with the necessary tools, software and training."

The grant, from the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) - a leading developer of GIS technology - will support UN-HABITAT's Global Urban Observatory, an international capacity-building network created to monitor efforts underway to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

To achieve that goal, which was highlighted in the 2000 Millennium Declaration, the programme will be implemented in phases, and this year will award grants to 350 cities that currently do not have access to geographical information technology. The cities will then be able to monitor and analyse urban indicators, such as poverty rates, signs of environmental degradation, failing infrastructures or lack of access to adequate land.

Virtually any information that can be assigned location coordinates can be fed into a GIS. So the desktop geographical technology and Internet mapping technology provided by ESRI will allow the Observatory's partners create, maintain and disseminate data documenting the condition of the world's cities.