The world is becoming more urban – so how do we ensure our infrastructure meets the social, economic and climatic challenges of the 21st century? This was the theme of the recent International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure (ISNGI) hosted by the SMART Infrastructure Facility, at the University of Wollongong. The symposium highlighted some of the great research going on in Australia and around the world to understand how we can make our cities and their infrastructure sustainable for future generations.

IWA Poster

Sanitation Network Modelling Poster

But what about developing nations? How do we model infrastructure when there’s no data? Or when the system is changing so fast that traditional data collection techniques become redundant? How do we quantify the infrastructure requirements of a slum when it’s  population fluctuates by 800,000 people annually? More importantly, how do you engage with that community to understand their needs?

One solution is to use open data and open tools. The world is becoming more connected, and crowd-sourced data offer, for the first time, an insight into infrastructure in some of the world’s poorest cities and informal settlements which have never before been mapped. The Map Kibera project is a really great example of this. In collaboration with colleagues from the UK, we built a prototype model to demonstrate the utility of data from Map Kibera and Open Street Map for spatio-topological network modelling, to optimise road-based sanitation for Kibera. I presented this work at ISNGI, and Ruth recently presented a poster of this work at the International Water Association Congress and Exhibition in Nairobi. We’ve demonstrated it’s possible – the challenge now is to make it work in the real world.

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