Work innovations for the urban poor
Providing the poor and marginalized with employment is one of the best ways to help them lift themselves out of poverty. In addition to creating jobs for the marginalized, handicapped, or incarcerated, programs can reduce the barriers people face when it comes to successful employment. These tools can include childcare facilities, technological innovations, or skills training. Providing people with the tools to help themselves is in many ways more compassionate, and more effective, than any charity program. Check out these reports from six featured cities — then join the conversation in the comments below.
In Lagos, spread of technology enables popular access and new connections for local solutions
Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community Manager
In Lagos, the spread of mobile usage, internet connectivity, and new technologies is serving to leapfrog the development divides that in the past have held back communities' access to information and opportunities.
Statistics demonstrate that nationwide, about 100 million people in the country own mobile phones; 45 million use the internet, with 54 percent of them using their phones to for access. Unfortunately, measuring mobile usage and mobile internet access at the city scale is challenged by lack of available statistical data. According to Ngozi Odita, executive director for the upcoming Social Media Week Lagos conference, the trend playing out in Lagos mirrors that in the rest of the country: "More and more people are becoming connected," she said, adding that this increased access is creating a space for people to innovate in everyday problem solving: "It lends itself to more opportunities as more people have access to the internet and to [applications]."
Cheaper, more convenient technologies — including as simple as owning a mobile phone — are having a powerful influence on leveling the playing field in terms of access to information, Odita continued. Even in communities or households where there is no electricity or water connection, people will find a way to get mobile phones, and with mobile phones comes access to information: "I think you'd be surprised how people may have no electricity, but they have a mobile phone," Odita says. "Phones allow people to stay connected in some way. In the village, in a community, that person with the phone and internet can become the source of information — the broadcasting channel for the people in their neighborhood."
People are also becoming creative in how they address local challenges, thanks to technology and social media. She points to the example of @Gidi_Traffic that provides up-to-date information on Lagos traffic conditions via Twitter.
"With traffic updates in real time, people can vary routes on traffic-clustered routes and avoid areas of unrest — saving people time, money gas, and helping people get to appointments on time," @Gidi_Traffic creator Kaptin Idoko said to BBC.
In a city well known for its crawling, bumper-to-bumper traffic, @GidiTraffic is a welcome and local initiative that identified a challenge (lack of information on traffic conditions) and found a way to address it through social media. The innovative Twitter account has more than 40,600 followers and was nominated for a 2012 Shorty award.
Social media is also a tool that youth have employed to organize. On January 1, 2012, when President Goodluck Jonathan announced the removal of the government fuel subsidy and subsequent doubling fuel prices overnight after pressures from the International Monetary Fund, ordinary citizens gathered to protest in Lagos, starting the next day — and they used social media like Twitter and Facebook and mobile phone services like Blackberry to share information on demonstration meeting locations, status and violence. Known as the #OccupyNigeria movement, it was a series of organized protests that built up around the country and effectively leveraged numbers and technology to force the government to return the fuel subsidies that would ensure the affordability of fuel around the country.
These initiatives and movements are founded on the spread of mobile phone usage and internet in Lagos, and as well throughout the country. These new technology developments are empowering ordinary citizens, who can connect, communicate, and organize at a local level. New and diverse projects, ventures and initiatives abound, and Odita looks forward to featuring these at Social Media Week Lagos, a week-long conference focused on the impact of social media in the continent, taking place in Lagos in February 2013.
Odita also points to Co-Creator Hub Nigeria, a Lagos-based firm working to "catalyze creative social technology ventures [taking] place" locally, by linking up individuals with ideas, to those who can invest in, refine and support those ideas to turn them into practical realities. As stated on its website, the hub is a "place for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech companies, impact investors and hackers in and around Lagos to co-create new solutions to the many social problems in Nigeria." Through workshops and meetups, the hub creates dialogue; it also provides a shared space where individuals from diverse background and professions can brainstorm their tech ideas and develop local solutions. The goal: "to accelerate the successful development of social tech ventures... and creating novel technologically driven solutions to the myriad social challenges facing the average Nigerian."
"That's the great thing about technology and social media," Odita said. "It's allowing people to get creative about solving problems locally."
E-participation in slum upgrading
Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager
Over the past decades, attitudes and perceptions regarding how best to tackle the problem of unregulated slum development have evolved considerably.
Where once upon a time slum clearance or relocation were deemed the best solution to the problem, over time researchers and policy makers were forced to explore more participatory methodologies with which to include communities in the decision making process.
The advantages to participation are many: they include better public support for a project, increased transparency, reduced risk of overlooking important details and above all better informed citizens.
There are of course pitfalls, which will lessen the impact of a participatory project. When participation is used as a "token" tool to make the community feel included, its outcomes inevitably prove weak. Furthermore there remains the potential for those in power to attempt to subvert or undermine the course of participatory decision-making because it represents a threat to the status quo.
These are some of the issues that the UN-Habitat Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) attempts to tackle. Past PSUP slum upgrading projects have focussed on creating community motivation to engage in these processes in order to improve governance and make leaders more accountable.
As part of a push to engage with new technologies and social media as a tool for e-participation, the PSUP recently engaged in a two day workshop in Nairobi, in which community leaders and civil society members from Mathare and Kibera slums were invited to discuss the potential for using e-participation in a slum upgrading context.
The focus of the workshop was on how to use social media to inform participation, how specifically it could be beneficial to slum upgrading and how it was possible to create platforms which incorporate e-participation exercises alongside public forums and community meetings.
The workshop was held in collaboration with the Kenyan Local Government and Decentralisation team with an eye towards developing a future policy model.
During the workshop, participants discussed PSUP's pilot project for e-participation in slum upgrading, currently taking-off in Mtwapa, a satellite town that lies on the Indian Ocean on the outskirts of Kenya's second biggest city, Mombasa.
The PSUP activities in Mtwapa town are being developed in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Local Government and Decentralisation and the Kilifi County Council, as the participatory approach also takes into account different government levels.
"The aim of the Mtwapa pilot project," Dr. Matthew French, an Associate Human Settlements Officer at UN-HABITAT tells us, "is to begin to frame e-participation as a tool for deepening democracy and citizen engagement in urban development with an eye towards mainstreaming the practice".
The task that PSUP is faced with is how to mainstream a policy of e-participation in such a way to make it as inclusive and sustainable as possible while at the same time not allowing it to be co-opted into power struggles at a local government level or succumb to the pressure of strong influence groups that live within slums and other marginalized settlements.
Questions for discussion on e-participation in slum upgrading
- How can people from informal settlements be meaningfully involved in an e-participation process?
- How can community members be included at all stages of the project and not only in the initial (e.g. community monitoring and evaluation, participatory budgeting)?
- How do you reach out to people who are not already active in social media?
- Can social media really reflect the ideas of a community?
- How do you feed e-participation results back to the community?
Employing Mumbai's disabled
Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager
Traveling around Mumbai is notoriously difficult. Over-crowded trains halt for just seconds at each station, causing massive congestion of descending and ascending passengers. The train tangle is one of many frustrations for Mumbai's commuters. But for Anand Rai, the trip to and from work is especially challenging. Rai is blind and travels alone, taking busses and trains and traversing on foot chaotic streets and broken sidewalks.
Rai works as a masseuse specializing in reflexology at a spa called Mettaa ("loving compassion" in Hindi) which employs only blind people. Joanita Figueiredo set up the social-enterprise three years ago after she trained blind students from marginalized communities in the holistic art. A nurse and yoga teacher by training, Figueiredo had no intention of taking the work with the blind beyond the contract job, but she realized quickly that no one was hiring them, even with their expert skills. She also discovered that her students wanted to work and didn't want charity. "I tried giving one of my students money to stay in his hostel because the family was having trouble affording the INR 1,200 (~$22) for his monthly housing. The student said that he would rather earn the money by giving my husband a massage," recounts Figueiredo, who says that moment sparked the idea for Mettaa.
Like so many who come to Mumbai, Rai moved from his village in Darjeeling because his community was mostly farmers and there were few opportunities — and for a blind person, even fewer job prospects or services. The disabled are often stigmatized as well, and Rai says that it was difficult for him in the village. "Families believe that being blind is a curse from god or that the family is not blessed," explains Figueiredo. "Giving them work also gives them self-esteem."
In India, disabilities — blindness, deafness, disfigurement — occur for a number of reasons, but for the poor, many are born disabled due to poor nutrition conditions of mothers or lack of access to clean water. In fact, a report came out earlier this month that tested 450 Dharavi girls aged 11 to 19 years for "dangerously low levels of haemoglobin," according to an article in the Financial Express. "Of the girls screened, 60 per cent were found to be anaemic and 7 per cent suffered from hypothyroidism, which, if left untreated, can result in birth of malformed children." Systemic causes to deformation and disability require a multi-faceted approach to reducing the number of disabled while simultaneously providing services for those currently in need.
Employment for the large, disabled population in urban India is an essential step in bringing dignity to this population. In most cases, the disabled, who suffer a double stigma of economic and social exclusion in societies that look down upon these "abnormalities," stay indoors in an effort not to be seen. "The most basic thing that we disabled people lack in India is easy access to anything and any place. That's why we are called the 'invisible minority' because we never move out of our homes," said a wheelchair user in India in a BBC article. These disabilities perpetuate a poverty trap and push the poor further from access to ever-important tools such as education, employment and healthcare. In India, 50 percent of people with a disability have never been to school. For children, the situation is even more dire: only 5 percent of children with disabilities regularly attend school. Employment is even further out of reach.
Cities in India need to start more holistically incorporating people with disabilities into their planning. Rai has a few simple suggestions for enhancing access and usability of public transportation, since, unlike in the West, there are no van services that transport handicap travelers. Here, they are left to fend for themselves. He says that the train at least announces the stops, whereas bus stops give no indication of which bus number is arriving and while on the bus, there are no announcements of upcoming stops.
These simple additions would help the blind, at least, travel more easily and provide them access to work to meet their daily living needs. For the limbless, many of whom push themselves on rolling pieces of wood in the absence of expensive wheelchairs and beg on street corners because of lack of work opportunities, more innovative services and opportunities are needed. Expanding employment and developing skills will only be effective if the city creates and environment that accepts the disabled as a productive part of the population and fosters more enterprise, innovation and investment is this area.
Menjembatani jurang digital dengan teknologi sederhana
Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community Manager
Convinced that access to information and broad participation in knowledge formation are essential in stimulating economic growth, Indonesia's IT crusader Onno W. Purbo is pursuing a variety of strategies to broaden access to the Internet. He's doing it by initiating the development of RT/RW-net, a locally appropriate low-cost technology, and mobilizing a group of young "techies" committed to bridging the digital divide in Indonesia.
Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi (TIK) dianggap memiliki peran penting dalam merangsang pertumbuhan ekonomi. Namun, manfaat TIK tidak merata di seluruh kelompok. Meski Indonesia memiliki pasar seluler yang sangat kuat serta penggunaan media sosial yang dominan di dunia, kesenjangan digital atau perbedaan kemampuan dalam mengakses dan memanfaatkan TIK secara efektif masih nyata, bahkan di ibukota Jakarta sekalipun. Adalah Onno W. Purbo, pejuang Teknologi Informasi yang percaya bahwa kesenjangan ini bisa diatasi dengan teknologi yang murah, tepat guna dan serba lokal.
Sementara sebagian besar negara berkembang maju secara bertahap dari tak punya koneksi, lalu punya sambungan telepon, lalu ke perangkat seluler, Indonesia khususnya Jakarta melakukan loncatan langsung ke ponsel. Jangan heran jika Anda menyusuri gang kecil di perkampungan kumuh yang tak punya saluran air perpipaan, lalu melihat warganya berbincang-bincang menggunakan ponselnya. Salah satu alasan utama mengapa ponsel begitu populer adalah murahnya harga handset serta pulsanya. Banyak yang bilang transportasi Jakarta yang berantakan juga merupakan salah satu faktor pendorong tingginya angka penggunaan ponsel.
Fakta bahwa sebagian besar masyarakat Jakarta menggunakan ponsel mereka untuk mengakses informasi ini memang unik, tapi ternyata tak cukup untuk mendongkrak penetrasi internet di negeri ini. Pengguna internet di Indonesia paling banyak hanya 7 persen saja dari total populasi. Itu pun tak semuanya merupakan pengguna reguler.
Padahal, akses terhadap informasi mampu menentukan nasib seseorang. Budi Rahardjo, dosen dan praktisi TIK menekankan bahwa sumber masalah dari kesenjangan digital di negeri ini adalah kesulitan akses (infrastruktur, listrik, telekomunikasi, perangkat), kurangnya keterampilan (sumber daya manusia maupun komnunitas), kurangnya isi atau materi di dunia maya yang mampu dipahami semua kelompok, serta tak adanya insentif dari pemerintah.
Murah dan sederhana
Adalah Onno W. Purbo, seorang pejuang transformasi teknologi informasi dan komunikasi di Indonesia yang percaya bahwa teknologi seharusnya tak pilih kasih. Bersama sekelompok koleganya, beliat merintis RT/RW-Net, yang merupakan jaringan komputer swadaya masyarakat dalam ruang lingkup wilayah yang kecil, melalui jalur kabel atau Wireless 2.4 Ghz. RT/RW Net merupakan salah satu bentuk komunikasi rakyat yang bebas dari undang-undang dan birokrasi pemerintah. "RT/RW" adalah istilah unit masyarakat terkecil di perkotaan. Tujuan terpenting dalam pembangunan RTRW Net ini adalah Turut serta dalam pengembangan internet murah di masyarakat serta Membangun komunitas yang sadar akan kehadiran Teknologi Informasi dan Internet.
Konsep RT/RW-Net sebetulnya sama dengan konsep Warnet. Pemilik RT/RWNet akan membeli atau menyewa bandwith dari penyedia internet / ISP (Internet Service Provider), lalu dijual kembali ke pelanggan. Yang membedakan antara Warnet dengan RT/RW Net adalah tempat pelanggan berada. Pelanggan RT/RW Net menggunakan internet di rumah masing-masing, tidak di tempat RT/RWNet tersebut berada. RT/RW dinilai sebagai solusi yang sangat murah karena jika dihitung-hitung, setiap orang hanya perlu membayar kurang lebih 70 ribu rupiah per bulan untuk akses internet berkecepatan sampai 1024 Kbps.
Hal kunci yang dilakukan Onno adalah memobilisasi sekumpulan penggila teknologi termasuk komunitas-komunitas untuk menyebarluaskan penggunaan jaringan ini. Beliau menyebutnya "men-demokratisasi" akses internet. Onno juga memberdayakan warga dengan prinsip bottom-up, sehingga banyak gerakannya berada di akar rumput.
"Kita harus berani mandiri. Berani membuat infrastrukturnya sendiri; berani membuat gadget sendiri; berani membuat dan memakai sistem operasi sendiri; berani membuat server dan informasi sendiri," tegasnya.
Presos, mano de obra para empresarios
María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager
The Business Council for Social Reintegration (CERES in Spanish) confirms that the prison population in Mexico City is of 40,979 prisoners, of which nearly 18 thousand participate are employed in production chains from within the prison. Prisoners are occupied, but by no means reintegrated. The lack of skilled training generates a negative dynamic including further imprisonment and recidivism.
By providing training and employment to prisoners, the Reintegration Program of CERES allows entrepreneurs to employ labor without the cost of infrastructure investment, and at the same time, productive activity develops the prisoner's individual responsibility, good behavior and respect for others. In addition, this program enhances de wellbeing of the prisoner and their family.
El Consejo Empresarial para la Reinserción Social (CERES) afirma que la población penitenciaria en la Ciudad de México es de 40,979 internos, de los cuales casi dieciocho mil presos son los que participan en cadenas productivas por medio de actividades laborales dentro de los penales. Los centros penitenciarios desempeñan actividades relacionadas con la contención más no de reinserción. Así mismo, la falta de capacitación de los presos genera una dinámica negativa: reclusión, encierro y reincidencia.
Bajo este contexto, el programa de Reinserción Social, busca brindarles una segunda oportunidad cobijado en el marco de los derechos de los presos, para que se involucren en el mercado a través del empleo a distancia; promueve que los empresarios den trabajo a los presos dentro de las cadenas productivas mientras se encuentran internos, así como la instalación de talleres industriales en los centros penitenciarios para que se desarrollen dichas labores.
Esta estrategia se basa en un modelo que promueve que los individuos que han sido juzgados penalmente no sean juzgados socialmente, por lo que se les brinda las herramientas para que se reinserten en la sociedad. Salvador Montero, Director de Trabajo Penitenciario de la Subsecretaría de Sistema Penitenciario del DF, afirma que la reintegración social se puede lograr a través del trabajo, ya que implica generar hábitos positivos en los internos como disciplina, responsabilidad y compromiso de obtener dinero de manera decente. En este proyecto, el 30 por ciento del ingreso de los internos se le entrega a las familias, otro 30 por ciento se canaliza a restituir el daño de su delito, otro 30 por ciento es depositado en un fideicomiso, de manera que el interno al salir del centro pueda tener recursos para construir su estrategia de vida y de reinserción, y el 10 por ciento restante se le entrega al preso para sus gastos.
De esta manera, el preso desarrolla habilidades así como una imagen positiva ante la sociedad para que no sea sujeto de discriminación al cumplir su sentencia. Mayer Zaga, quien encabeza el proyecto, confirma que las probabilidades de reincidir son menores una vez que el preso ha transitado por un proceso a través de un trabajo digno y remunerado que permite cumplir el circulo vicioso de la dinámica de los centros penitenciarios y acerca al interno a su familia al otorgarle parte de su ingreso. En este sentido, al cumplir su condena pueda continuar con su trabajo, así como gozar de la libertad y bienestar.
La innovación en el trabajo de este proyecto permite que los empresarios obtengan productos de mano de obra capacitada sin costos de instalación al desarrollar la industria penitenciaria; al mismo tiempo, mediante la ocupación productiva se apoya al sistema penitenciario al desarrollo de la responsabilidad individual, el buen comportamiento y el respeto a los demás; y en tercer lugar mejora el bienestar del preso y de su familia.
Increasing Rio's skilled labor during the upcoming mega events
Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Rio de Janeiro is rushing to get ready to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. Several construction projects and improvements are currently taking place all over the city, including the airport expansion, the stadium modernization, and the extension of several highways and transportation systems, as well as the development of ambitious urbanization and revitalization projects. And although there is a high emphasis on the physical improvements, the Rio's local government is also supporting a series of education and training initiatives that will allow its population to take full advantage of what such events will bring to the city, particularly in terms of income generating activities and work opportunities.
There are actually two main activities worth highlighting that the local government is supporting in order to raise more skilled workers during the time of the mega events: (i) the expansion of childcare; and (ii) the promotion of free skill formation courses. Although these two initiatives may sound slightly basic, they are definitely innovative and are meant to generate significant work opportunities, especially for the poorest families in Rio.
Let's start with the expansion of childcare. Currently, the Municipal Secretariat of Education is expanding Childcare Centers (known as crèches) and its Child Development Spaces (known as Espaços de Desenvolvimento Infantil). The latter are specialized facilities that serve children from 6 months of age to 5 years and are usually located in low income neighborhoods. The EDIs combine early childhood development and preschool services. Both crèches and EDIs have trained professionals and all their services are free of charge; the centers also provide its beneficiaries with several meals a day, offering low income families an opportunity to improve nutrition among their children. Since 2009 the city has expanded its childcare services to more than 23 thousand youngsters. In addition, the city has built more than 100 EDIs so far and it is meant to build more facilities that will allow expanding services to more than 30 thousand children. This initiative clearly eliminates the barriers encountered by so many parents who can't work because they don't have a trusted individual or institution to leave their kids with while they work. It is also an encouragement for both parents to take work opportunities instead of just one.
The second initiative is the promotion of free skill formation courses in partnership with several training institutions and NGOs. Some of the courses train receptionists, drivers, waiters, industrial cooks, and bartenders among many others. Another popular course is English; and this is definitely a priority as the language is not widely used within the city and it may be an important barrier for many people, especially from low income areas, to get a good job. During the recent Rio+20 event, several advancements in the use of English were evidenced as several institutions hired bilingual locals as touristic and information guides. In addition to the free courses offered to adults, the local government is promoting the expansion of English training activities particularly targeted to cover all children attending fist to ninth grade until December 2014.
Although the main goal of these initiatives is to improve employability and income generating skills during the mega events, hopefully Rio's local government prioritizes more interventions meant to create long term capacities and skills that help many more families overcome poverty and vulnerability. We welcome any ideas and suggestions of what additional activities might need to be promoted in order to increase Rio's skilled labor taking advantage of the legacy of such mega events.