Asia-Pacific Urban Youth Assembly 2015 – How it all began

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The first ever APUFY kicked off on Saturday October 17th in Jakarta, Indonesia with number of optional activities at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Although  optional, the 70% turn-out suggested the quality and energy of the historic event. Motivated and eager participants jumped into discussions without further encouragement and were later rewarded with a welcome reception hosted by the Minister Basuki Hadimuljono himself. To set the mood, the Minister proved he’s not only a man of big words and tough decisions, but also a melody when he sang and danced on the stage along other guests and APUFY participants.

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The main activities were set for Sunday October 18th. An impressive line-up of honorable speakers gave their opening remarks to the audience of 300 youth participants from all over the region, carefully selected out of almost 2000 applicants. Douglas Ragan, Chief of the Youth Unit, UN-HABITAT alongside Basuki Hadimuljono, the Minister of Public Works and Housing, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Governor of DKI Jakarta and Gatot S. Dewa Broto, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Indonesia opened this remarkable event.

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The opening session set the scene and placed APUFY’s deliberations in the context of the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals and the emerging New Urban Agenda to be adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, aka. Habitat III. Remarks have been made in the global, regional as well as Indonesian context. Not surprisingly, youth came to be the key stakeholder in the equation of finding solutions to urban challenges.

Following the Opening, there was a very interesting and often amusing dialogue session between the Governor of DKI Jakarta, the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport and the participants. The participants had a unique opportunity to ask any question and they used it without hesitation. Luckily, both of the honorable guests were eager to talk to the young people, and have answered even the most direct and sensitive questions. Here are some of the highlights of the Q&As:

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Q: I have heard Indonesia has a large number of young people. What is the most effective way to take advantage of such youthful population?

A: The most important thing is to educate them and prepare them for adult life. We need to fight high unemployment rates by facilitating their integration to public as well as private sectors. We need to create sufficient opportunities and activities for young people to grow and develop.

Q: What do you expect from youth in terms of building sustainable and resistant cities?

A: To contribute to building and fostering the unity and diversity, two very important things in Indonesia. I can’t even imagine how the Indonesian independency would look like without the young people. Given the huge number of youth, nothing can work properly without their involvement. Young people shall stop to be underestimated. Remember the Arab Spring. It would have never happened without the active participation of the Tunisian youth.

Q: How can youth be better involved in decision-making?

A: Internet represents a great platform as they can share their ideas, thoughts and opinion with their peers as well as us, the officials. Open data are public and cannot be modified before they reach us which helps to fight corruption as well. We can also make our budgeting and policy making more transparent and thus facilitate easier participation of young people. Lastly, we need to work on improving of our own image in public. Many young people believe that government officials are lazy and that they don’t care about them. We need to make ourselves more approachable to prove them wrong.

And what were the recommendations for the way forward?

o Having more public spaces for recreation and activities in social housing and public spaces generally which encourage multigenerational interaction.

o Electronic planning and budgeting that allows transparency because data is easily accessible.

o District level discussions that go to city and then province level.

o Making things transparent allows youth to get involved through these forums.

o Using social media and QLUE program.

o Create incentives for young people to innovate for cities and participate, not just about entertaining young people without results and not just about financial support. Harness creativity of young people.

o Governments should not only give voice to youth but also opportunities.

o Use ICT that is not just about entertainment but focuses on encouraging youth to innovate.

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Youth and Local Government develop Urban Real-time Innovations and Solutions

‘One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man’. –Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard died in 1915 but the quote still rings true in 2015, exactly a century later. And in light of this statement, UN-Habitat, Ericsson and Strathmore University came together in a pilot project dubbed ‘The Innovation Marketplace’ seeking to incorporate youth in developing and implementing technological solutions to solve urban challenges facing the counties. A key phase in the project was the hosting of a hackday at @iLabAfrica, a Research and Innovation Centre at Strathmore University that took place from Friday, 25 September 2015, 8AM through to Saturday the 26th, 1 PM.

The hackday sought to bring together youth passionate about technology, social change and cities through the development of ICT solutions that can be used to improve our counties and by extension, our cities. We received over a hundred applications for the hackday but we had to select the 30 most extraordinary of them.

Dr. Sevilla, Director of @iLabAFrica Research Centre gave the welcoming remarks. Marcus Nyberg, Senior Researcher at User Experience Lab, Ericsson Research gave a macro view of how ICT solutions have been used to address various urban challenges while Pontus Westerberg, the Transparency Affairs and Digital Projects Officer at UN-Habitat gave an overview of the project and introduced the participants to the challenge statements (grouped into four thematic areas) on which they would be hacking on. These were:

  • Urban basic services: How can ICT be used to enhance collaboration between county governments and youth, and utilize local capabilities to effectively provide water and sanitation services to those who lack it?
  • City Planning: How can ICT bridge these gaps, stimulate a continuous and structured interaction between county and youth, and enable more participatory planning? How can an ICT based solution be used to aid in the dissemination of spatial and urban planning information to avoid land being grabbed?
  • Local Economy: How can ICT be used as a tool to provide the youth with this information? How can ICT provide a platform to synergize collaboration between government, the private sector and youth?
  • Local Governance: How can ICT be used to help address these barriers? What kind of solution can create awareness about available opportunities and requirements necessary to meet selection criteria, while at the same time increasing transparency and reducing bureaucracy to make service delivery faster and more efficient?

In addition to the youth, five county representatives from Kiambu (the county selected to participate in the pilot project) and four mentors who used the specialty skills to guide the hackers as they developed their solutions. These were, Frank Tamre – Co founder Moringa School and UX is his expertise; Theo Dolan – Director, Peacemedia and Peacetech Lab Africa, specializing in Media and Technology; Robert Yawe, MD, Kay System Technologies with product and business strategy as his areas of expertise; and Marcus Nyberg, Senior Reseacher at User Experience Lab, Ericsson Research having UX, mobile services, research and innovation as his expertise.

After the participants were introduced to the challenge statements, they were given time to quickly think of solution ideas and pitch them. The hackers then group themselves around the ideas they believed were viable to work on. Frank Tamre took the hackers through a session of UX – problem definition and user profiling. Hackers were then taken through customer validation by Robert Yawe through the use of the Javelin Experiment Board with the hackers presenting on their finding after each session.

‘One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men’

With the hackers now having fully comprehended the context of the solutions they would be developing, hacking proper began. This went on through the night and into early Saturday morning where they were taken through developing a business model using the Lean Canvas by Robert Yawe and had a dry run of their final presentations to the mentors.

The judges: Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Robert Yawe, Judith Owigar – co-founder and Operations Director at Akirachix, Douglas Ragan – Unit Leader for Youth and Employment at the UN- Habitat, Kate Kiguru – CEO of Ukall, George Rabar – Customer Project Manager for Sub-Sahara Africa at Ericsson and a county representative from Kiambu; arrived at Strathmore ready to listen, advice, and evaluate the outcomes.

There were 8 teams which developed prototypes in the area of provision of land information. Solving the challenge of lack of dissemination of land information, mobile application that aids in data collection with analytics and visualization and Smart Reporting by citizens for Local Governance.

The winning app was Mat Q which was a web and mobile application for automating management at matatu (local bus) terminals which would both improve efficiency for the drivers and improve revenue collection. This app would solve the pen, paper and board rudimentary way of matatu management that faces many challenge of efficiency and transparency.

The winning team, MatQ
The winning team, MatQ

The last phase of this project will be incubation of Mat Q for them to further develop the solutions for the rest of the year and to be able to pilot it in Kiambu County. Concurrently, county representatives will also benefit from trainings that will increase their understanding of urban issues and acquire digital and other skills that will enable them to fully integrate the solution to their processes.