Bringing the theme “Sustainable Development of Cities and Human Settlements in the Digital Era”, the 14th Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS 2019) took off on Thursday (05/09) at the United Nations Conference Centre and is still on-going for today (06/09) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Estimated percentages of 60-70% urban households are living in slums while 90% of the population lives in informal housing. On behalf of the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Oliver Chinganya, the Director of The Africa Centre for Statistics on his welcome speech express concern of the quality of human settlement and the satisfaction level for basic needs.
According to Chinganya, many still live in the overcrowded and unhealthy risk-induced environment and emphasize on the lack of basic services and social protections such as clean and safe water, a decent toilet, title deeds or rental agreements. The issues can be approached by considering smart cities and digital citizenry, with the understanding that “only a third of Africans are on the internet”, and that “the digital infrastructures are far from the world’s best in terms of speed, volume, and reliability.”
Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Seleshi Bekele opened the forum, stating the use of modern and digital technologies to “offers tremendous opportunities to improve efficiency.” The country is currently up-scaling usage of innovative technology to transform the life quality in cities and nation-wide, and the use of digital applications and systems in the utility sector, as in water and electricity are just one of the many areas to work on.
The Forum will explore how to harness the huge opportunities arising from the digital revolution to the upgrade of planning, construction, and management of cities and human settlements, and make them greener, smarter and more sustainable. It is attended by 500 participants from 52 countries.
The forum will serve as a medium to explore on the following discussion; the huge endeavours resulted from digital revolution; the plan, construction, and management of cities and human settlements; and to create a sustainable green environment for Africa.
Taking place for the first time in Africa, the co-organized forum (by GFHS, ECA, ITU, and WUC) pledge to actively promote all-round economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation between Africa and other regions including the Belt and Road initiative, thus contributing to sustainable development in the region, as noted by Lu Haifeng, Secretary-General of GFHS.