Transforming Urban Slums: Pathway to Functionally Intelligent Cities in Developing Countries

Transforming Urban Slums: Pathway to Functionally Intelligent Cities in Developing Countries

Darrold Laurence Cordes (Curtin University, Australia), Pornpit Wongthongtham (Curtin University, Australia) and Greg Morrison (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5062-5.ch006
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Cities in developing countries are increasingly under stress through urbanization, which leads to the expansion of slum areas or informal settlements due to demand for low-cost housing. This chapter presents the social, environmental, and economic realities facing slum dwellers and discusses their redevelopment into intelligent cities. The concept of ‘function accompanying intelligent' is introduced for the transformation of slums to functional intelligent cities. In this context, a city is intelligent if it serves both the functional and social needs of its entire population. The chapter overviews an approach to integrated data collection, data analytics, and user access to information. Geospatial analysis of demographic, economic, social, and environmental data is introduced to help delineate slums, and to monitor the outcomes of urban planning initiatives and the progress of social wellbeing. The city of Accra in Ghana is discussed as a potential slum city to functional intelligent city transformation.
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The World Cities Report (2016) provides comprehensive insights into the challenges facing urban slum dwellers, policy makers, and urban planners. Slums exist everywhere, but they are more evident in developing countries exacerbated by rural-urban migration, poor urban planning, and weak governance. Slums are highly correlated with poverty. Mahabir et al. (2016) have provided an historical account of the tried and failed policy initiatives to eradicate slums over the last 50 years. They refer to the sites and services approach during the 1970s that led to the relocation of slum dwellers to new sites and the former slums were demolished. Displaced people were required to pay for the new infrastructure developments and housing. Without adequate resources, the slums continued to flourish. For example, the Brazilian government effort in the 1970s, to forcibly displace favela (slum) dwellers into public housing without adequate planning and support, resulted in the creation of new favelas (Brown University, 2019). Mahabir et al. (2016) then describe the policy initiative of the 1980s to redevelop the slums in-situ. This approach also failed primarily because of the lack of financial commitment and other reasons relating to the failure to recognize the importance of addressing the economic conditions of the slum dwellers, governance issues, and land tenure issues (Mahabir et al., 2016). The next policy initiative was to bestow land ownership on the slum dwellers based on the assumption that the structure within which they lived was owned by the occupier. This assumption proved to be incorrect because occupiers could still be evicted by landlords. Mahabir et al. (2016) then discuss the more recent Nelson Mandela inspired Cities Without Slums initiative which acknowledges the link between poverty and slums. It appears that this initiative has given way to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 which was revised extensively in 2018 to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (United Nations, 2019b).

In the following sections, we discuss the case of city of Accra in Ghana in western Sub-Saharan Africa.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Urbanization: The growth of urban population as a result of immigration from rural areas and from natural population growth within the urban areas. In developing countries, unsustainable urban development places stress on services and housing with serious consequences for public health due to poor sanitation, lack of safe water, inadequate waste disposal, and a degraded environment.

Serverless Computing: A service provided by a cloud provider who manages the servers and allocates resources depending on client needs. The servers physically exist but the cloud obscures them.

Internet of Things (IoT): Includes all devices including sensors, computers, and other electronic devices that can be connected to the Internet so that data can be sent to a central location for processing. The Internet of Things has created an explosion in data and the development of new methods for analysis, interpretation, and visualization of the data.

Remote Sensing: The sensing of some action, event, or natural phenomena using a range of remote sensors. For example, images of the earth taken from an orbiting satellite use remote sensing devices such as cameras to provide high resolution colour or infrared images of the earth.

Skin or Stool Land: Names given to land claimed by traditional owners in Ghana. The term skin or stool tends to mean the same thing except that their use connects with the cultural background of the land and ownership.

Slums: Usually urban regions of a city that are of sub-standard quality, lacking basic services, and quality of housing. Usually associated with poverty. Also, known as informal settlements.

Sodom and Gomorrah: The name given to the slum district of Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana, that describes the horror of human deprivation in that district.

Enumeration Areas: Geographic areas that are the smallest spatial unit a single enumerator (census person) can cover during a census period. Ghana is currently preparing for the 2020 census with the designation of about 50,000 enumeration areas. With an estimated population of about 30 million people in 2020, this corresponds to about 600 people in about 150 households per enumeration area.

Data Analytics: A rapidly emerging field of information science arising from the explosion of data generated by many Internet based applications and services. Data analytics embodies a sequential process of descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics. Each type has a different purpose and requires different techniques to gain meaningful outcomes. The latter two often employ machine learning to gain valuable insights and directional guidance in decision making, such as in self-driving automobiles.

MW: A measure of power. 1MW is equivalent to one million watts.

KWh: A measure of energy. 1KW is one 1000 watts of power and when multiplied by one hour becomes 1KWh of energy. For example, a 2,000 watt device (2KW) would use 1KWh of energy in 30 minutes.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): Waste generated by households and industry in a city. Household waste contains recyclable materials (metal cans, glass, and plastics) and organic materials (food scraps, paper, and plastics) from which the energy content can be recovered and used to generate electricity, heat, and other products. It can also include solid sewerage waste.

Aquaponics: A system for growing fish, vegetables, and fruits in a controlled environment that uses only water and fish food. Fish provide nutrients for the vegetables and fruits which in turn cleanse the water for the fish. Aquaponics can be scaled from small home-based systems to large commercial systems. Aquaponics is contained within controlled greenhouse environments for year-round farming and does not use herbicides or pesticides. It consumes much less water and occupies significantly less land area than conventional agriculture. Aquaponics enables sustainable food production in areas susceptible to climate change.

Photovoltaic: Refers to the conversion of photons into electrical energy. This is the action of solar panels. The amount of electrical energy generated is a function of the area of the panel (the amount of sunlight captured), the strength of sunlight irradiating the panel, and the conversion efficiency of the panel.

Hydroponics: A production method where the plants are grown in a nutrient rich solution in greenhouses rather than in the ground. Special greenhouse designs are needed to handle high temperatures and humidity in tropical regions.

Agriculture: Encompasses all activities related to the cultivation of the soil to grow crops and to raise livestock. It also includes the processing of plant and animal products into forms that are suitable for human consumption such as food, clothing, construction materials, and paper products.

Aquaculture: Can be likened to agriculture where fish is grown instead of plants and livestock. Fish is cultivated for human consumption. Fish farms may be constructed in ocean waters, rivers, ponds and tanks. When combined with hydroponics, fish and vegetables can be grown together in a fresh water aquaponics environment. According to some estimates, 50% of all seafood consumed today comes from aquaculture.

Downdraft Gasification: A chemical process for the breakdown of organic material into its constituent gas and solid components. Gas components can then be combined into synthetic gases or other molecular structures to suit requirements. Synthetic gas may be used in electricity generation. It is environmentally friendly, scalable, and adaptable to a wide range of organic feedstocks including municipal solid waste.

ECOWAS: The Economic Community of West African States comprising Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Core d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Liberia, and Carbo Verde. The goal of ECOWAS is to create a single trading bloc through normalization of finance, trade, and immigration between member countries, and to establish a framework for collective security.

Machine Learning: A process of machine modelling of some behavior based on the accumulation of information that best describes the required outcome. In the detection of slums, machine learning derived from remote images of known slums can identify other slums.

World Bank: An international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects.

Crowd-Sourcing: The sourcing of goods, services, and money from the public, usually via the Internet. In this contribution, it refers to the collection of data. Crowd-sourcing of specific data can be facilitated by purpose-built mobility applications for smartphones and tablets to provide greater survey capabilities over larger populations than traditional survey techniques. Crowd-sourcing of data in a more general sense is that captured by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and large search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P): Or person-to-person, connects two parties engaged in a transaction of equitable exchange without the need for a trusted intermediary such as a bank.

Dashboard: A computer or mobility device display that provides a summary of information of interest to the user and allows access to more detailed information. In the intelligent city context, the user may choose what government services (such as welfare, health, education) are most important, public transport schedules, community activities of interest, employment opportunities, locations of family members, local news feeds, and school schedules for dashboard display.

United Nations: The intergovernmental organization responsible for maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international cooperation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

Informal Settlements: Settlements that are characterized by poor housing, lack of facilities, overcrowding and insecure tenancy or residential status. The living conditions are generally poor, giving rise to health issues and crime. Informal settlements are more commonly referred to as slums.

Internet Cloud: A term used to describe the amorphous nature of the Internet and remotely connected computers and services. It is all there, but it cannot be observed because it is in the cloud.

UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund deals with issues relating to children.

Geothermal: Relates to the thermal characteristics of the earth that can be used for heating and cooling purposes. The sub-surface temperature is more constant than surface temperatures and heat exchanges can be used for space cooling during hot months and space heating in cold months. Geothermal energy is efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective. Geothermal energy may be used to manage greenhouse environments for aquaponics.

Spatial Data: Data that has a geographical or spatial context, such as location on a map represented by latitude and longitude coordinates (point) or within an area on a map (polygon) or a line (streets or railways). Also referred to as geospatial data.

Akosombo Dam: The location of a hydro-electric plant on the Volta River, Ghana. The construction of the Akosombo Dam flooded part of the Volta River Basin and created Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world by surface area and third largest by water volume covering about 3.6% of Ghana’s land area. The Akosombo Dam was originally intended to provide electricity for the aluminium industry and to the neighbouring countries of Togo and Benin.

Blockchain: A type of highly distributed database or system of ledgers that ia linked using cryptography. A blockchain network maintains permanent records of transactions which are managed through peer-to-peer protocols requiring a majority level of consensus for any change. Blockchain was originally developed as the highly distributed secure framework for cryptocurrency trading. It has more recently been applied to the secure tracking of food from producer to consumer, to the tracking of high value assets, and to other applications where high levels of documentation create elevated transactional risk.

Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA): One of 254 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in Ghana, and the political and administrative body for the city of Accra. It has a population of about two million people which is added to by another two million people who commute to the city daily for work, leisure and other purposes.

Agbogbloshie: A slum location in the city of Accra, commonly referred to as Sodom and Gomorrah. It is the location of a large e-waste dump where old computers and consumer electronics are processed to recover valuable materials such as copper, gold and other materials. The recycling process often involves burning which releases highly toxic gases into the atmosphere. With a population of about 45,000 mainly rural immigrants, Agbogbloshie has extremely poor living conditions and high crime rate.

Global Positioning System (GPS): Comprises a network of low-earth orbit satellites that provide location information (latitude and longitude) for terrestrial objects with high accuracy. The ability to track the movement of goods and to monitor the location of resources is vital to commerce. GPS is extensively used by individuals for navigation and tracking purposes.

Intelligent or Smart Cities: Cities that have embraced the Internet of Things (IoT) servicing a wide range of data collection, processing and information disseminating services for residents. No agreed quantitative definition of an intelligent city exists. These cities vary considerably in terms of the level of services and the interaction with the population. In developing countries intelligent cities may only offer basic services.

Prosumers: Someone who produces something that they consume and then make available the surplus for sale to others. Grid connected domestic solar power generation is an example.

GDP: Gross domestic product is the market value of all goods and services produced in a year.

Nanotubes: Tiny tubes of carbon that are as small as one nanometre, or one billionth of a metre. Nanotubes have potential widespread application for structural reinforcement and emerging applications in water purification, additives to paint and plastics, medical sensors, and tumour detection.

3D Printing: Three-dimensional printing of objects as directed by a set of software functions. Materials used for the printing are varied, thus allowing for intricate shapes and sizes to be printed from plastics, cement, carbon fibre, silver, steel, titanium, and other materials. Printers range in size from small desk-top printers to large robotic machines that are used to print buildings by progressively layering materials under direction from the software. Also referred to as additive manufacturing.

Sub-Saharan Africa: The southern region of African that is separated from northern Africa by the Saharan desert. The World Bank estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa has a combined GDP of $1.7 trillion and an estimated 2.6% economic growth for 2019. The World Bank also estimates that there are more than 400 million people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and that number is rising.

E-Commerce: An exchange of goods and services electronically. It must involve an exchange of value. E-commerce is available to individuals, businesses, and government through a wide range of Internet services. Typically, a product or service is offered on a website and promoted through social media and other media. Payment can be made using a variety of trusted intermediaries such as banks, card services companies and mobile wallets.

Biomass: Any organic material that derives from plants and animals including wood and wood processing waste, agricultural crops and waste materials, household waste, and sewerage solid waste. Biomass contains energy that can be released under different techniques to produce other products including synthetic gases, fertilizers and biofuels. Municipal solid waste is a large source of accessible energy that can be used as feedstock for processing with minimal environmental impact.

Horticulture: A branch of agriculture that focuses on the growing, marketing and processing of high-value plants for food, and for ornamental and therapeutic purposes. Horticulture is intensive small-scale farming of such products. For example, cut flowers have high value in certain markets and can be transported easily.

Smart City Transformation: A term created for this chapter that describes the process of transformation of a city’s slums as the genesis of creating a more functional intelligent city that best serves all of its residents.

FDI: Foreign direct investment is a controlling investment made in a project, asset, or business in one country by investors in another country.

AWG: Atmospheric water generation. The extraction of water from the atmosphere using electricity.

Volta or Volta River: The main river system in Ghana and feeds the Akosombo hydro-electric power plant. The Volta Lake was created by the damming of the Volta River and is the largest man-made freshwater lake in the world by surface area.

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