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How a technology initially designed to entertain is now changing urban landscapes

Block by Block is a collaboration between UN Habitat and Mojang

A popular game for kids and teens has turned out to be the inspiration behind smart city policies around the world. Thanks to a UN collaboration with a computer software company, citizens of all ages and backgrounds in places like Mexico, Haiti, Kenya and Gaza are literally playing an important role in redesigning public space.

Block by Block started as an initiative to get citizens more involved in the planning of public spaces through Mojang’s Minecraft computer game. Directly supporting the SDG11 (inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities), it gave tools to community members so they would develop plans that architects and governments could turn into reality. Since then, it has spread to a range of countries, from Vietnam to Haiti, Mexico and Somalia.

Known as a “digital Lego”, Minecraft was adapted to real-life cities, where people can suggest improvements and start building models for their communities.

In Kenya, the program started in 2017 as a way to bring refugees and locals closer together. The idea was to develop their design skills using the game and organize visits to physical sites that needed improvement. Even people with poor computer skills could learn quickly, due to the recreational nature of the project. Then, they would discuss the project and come up with ideas, many of them economically feasible and environmentally friendly. Some of the participants suggested tree-planting in order to provide more comfort and shade to the community and solar lights for clean energy – both projects duly implemented.

In Vietnam, the project has taken a strong gender approach. Girls were the main affected group, as they commute several miles every day to go to school, facing many safety challenges. Dark corners and dangerous passages were some of the problems they faced, and the solution came in the form of improved signage, lighted walkways and safe spaces like women-only coffee shops and shelters.

In addition to fostering collaboration, the Block by Block initiative also serves an important social function: that of developing computer skills in endangered communities and empowering minorities like women and refugees. Regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, digital technology is inclusive and for all; it leaves no one behind.

    in Tokyo to Shape a Smarter Future

    The Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum is set to tackle some of the most critical contemporary issues in plenary sessions dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, Sustainable Lifestyle, Health Technologies, Smart Technology and Smart Cities, Sports for Good, Renewable Future Energy and Opening New Roads for Sustainability.


    New York, September 13, 2019 —The path to fostering a better future for all implies the search for urgent appropriate solutions to the greatest challenges that humanity has faced since the beginning of time: namely, social inclusion and sustainability. And that path inevitably goes through designing a smarter future for all.

    This is the stance of SIGEF, a leading world forum on social innovation and global ethics, and the reason why “Together Shaping a Smarter Future” is the theme of its sixth edition. Its purpose is to promote private, public and citizen endeavors, in all areas of socio-economic activity, toward designing, developing and implementing smart environments, innovative solutions and devices that lead to that hopeful end. The exploration and promotion of smart solutions have thus logically led Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good and Horyou Foundation organizers of SIGEF2019, to pick Tokyo, Japan, home of Smart-Tech if ever there was one, to be its venue.

    In that respect, SIGEF2019 is set to tackle some of the most critical contemporary issues in plenary sessions dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, Sustainable Lifestyle, Health Technologies, Smart Technology and Smart Cities, Sports for Good, Renewable Future Energy and Opening New Roads for Sustainability. Inspiring stakeholders, including world experts, will share their most effective experiences and visions with a global online, offline and on the spot audience, while solutions will be proposed and strategies will be deliberated.

    SIGEF2019 will be held on September 19 at the Tokyo Prince Hotel, after an opening reception conducted at the Swiss Residence of the Ambassador, on September 18. It will entail the active participation of an international array of government authorities, business executives, international organization representatives and academia, as well as representatives of civil society and a number of experts and proponents of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

    “SIGEF has always exposed innovative and stimulating discussions about the social, economic and technological opportunities and challenges that reflect the most important needs of our society. In 2019, our Horyou Change-Maker Community is proud to organize SIGEF in Tokyo to discuss feasible strategies to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and to build a fairer future for the next generations. We truly believe that, together, we can shape a Smarter Future for All,” says Yonathan Parienti, Chairman of SIGEF Organizing Committee and Founder and CEO of Horyou.

    “Some of the confirmed SIGEF 2019 speakers include H.E Mr. Jean-François Paroz, Swiss Ambassador to Japan, Hon. Takuya Hirai, former Minister of Information Technology, Science and Innovation, Hon. Kenzo Fujisue, Member of the House of Councillors Japanese Parliament, Ms. Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist of WWF, visionary Artist Akira Hasegawa, Lifestyle model and influencer Ms. Lee Levi, Fintech innovator Mr. Roger Ver, Artificial Life Researcher Mr. Takashi Ikegami, Sustainability advocator Ms. Raquel Blanc, Vice President External Affairs Philip Morris International, Sports for Good advocator Mr. Saud Alsubaie, Director of Social Responsibility Department at Al Hilal Football Club, Women Empowerment Champion Ms. Yaye Soukeyna Toure, Innovator Dr. Hideto Tomabechi, Public Diplomacy Professor Dr. Nancy Snow, Robotic and Liver Surgeon Dr. Dmitri Alden, Mr. Magnus Magnusson, UNESCO’s Director for Partnerships Social and Human Sciences (remote intervention), World Record owner of Jumping Box, Mr. Iketani Naoki, Social Entrepreneur Joseph Mercorella, CEO of Lumary and Mr. Masaya Mori, Global Head, Rakuten Institute of Technology Worldwide.

    “SIGEF has always exposed innovative and stimulating discussions about the social, economic and technological opportunities and challenges that reflect the most important needs of our society. In 2019, our Horyou Change-Maker Community is proud to organize SIGEF in Tokyo to discuss feasible strategies to reach the Sustainable Development Goals and to build a fairer future for the next generations. We truly believe that, together, we can shape a Smarter Future for All,” says Yonathan Parienti, Chairman of SIGEF Organizing Committee and Founder and CEO of Horyou.

    SIGEF2019 Organizers and Main Sponsors:

    Horyou, the Social Network for Social Good
    Philip Morris International
    Horyou Foundation
    Cognitive Research Labs, Inc

    Vivian Soares, Horyou Media Relations
    +41 (0) 22 321 98 20

    Technology has been central to development throughout the course of human history. The rapid growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) across the world proves this fundamental connection on an unprecedented scale – and with revolutionary impact.


    Today, it could be said that all development is linked to digital development: from education to transportation, urban planning, sanitation, health, manufacturing, industry and, of course, communication, there is no industrial sector today that does not rely on ICTs as the essential backbone infrastructure providing access to services – and the associated benefits of social and economic development.

    At the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialized United Nations agency for ICTs, one of the priorities is to ensure that those benefits are made available to all of the world’s population, not just a limited few. ITU is committed to connecting all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means. And connectivity, and the ICT services, products and solutions it enables, is essential to meeting every one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    But how can we accelerate universal connectivity and the development it brings when nearly half of the people in the world remain offline?

    The ICT sector is working with us towards an ambitious long-term goal of connecting the next 1.5 billion citizens by 2020. This will require not only enormous investment in networks and other infrastructure, but also – crucially – significant political commitment.

    Infrastructure alone, however, is not enough. According to ITU, around 90% of the world’s population is covered by at least 2G or 3G services – yet adoption remains at barely 51%. So for connectivity to be meaningful, to actually reach people and change lives, affordable, fit-for-purpose services and equipment are needed, as well as local content in local languages, relevant to local context. And programmes to raise awareness of the benefits of connectivity, as well as to teach the digital skills essential to taking full advantage of this potential.

    Digital literacy is just as important for meaningful connectivity as cheap handsets or 3G networks in rural and remote areas. Innovation and inclusivity are as vital as infrastructure and investment.

    It’s clear that neither public nor private sector can go it alone. The task of connecting the whole world is as enormous as the developmental benefits it will bring. The leadership, resources and skills required are as great as the impact it will have. Government must work closely with the private sector, with all stakeholders throughout the digital ecosystem, with NGOs and international organizations, with civic society, communities, academia and media.

    Public private partnerships, in whatever form, are the key to driving meaningful connectivity and bringing the world online. This is where ITU’s leading annual event, ITU Telecom World, has such an important role to play. By bringing together leaders from government, industry, regulatory bodies, international agencies, consultants and academia from developed and emerging markets alike, the event works towards meeting the SDGs through digital technology, focusing efforts on infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusivity.

    It features an international exhibition of tech solutions and projects, a world-class forum of interactive, expert-led debates, an Awards Programme, and a networking programme connecting organizations, nations, individuals and ideas.

    The ITU Telecom World Awards Programme, in particular, is an opportunity to encounter, engage with and celebrate the best in innovative tech solutions with very real social impact.

    The international visibility, UN credibility and access to networking, investment potential and partnerships offered by the Awards has proved highly valuable since the programme’s introduction in 2015 – and is an excellent stage for precisely those public-private collaborations so essential to growing connectivity.

    Additionally, the event provides a powerful stage for exhibiting the projects, technologies and ideas that are driving development at local, national and international levels on the showfloor, as well as attending the Forum debates on “Innovating together: connectivity that matters” to learn, network and share knowledge.

    Held this year in HungExpo, Budapest, Hungary, from 9 – 12 September, ITU Telecom World 2019 is only one small step towards connecting the world. Every step counts, however, on the journey to accelerate development throughout the world through technology. And together, we can make those steps larger, longer and more effective.

    Horyou is a media partner of ITU Telecom World 2019

    Por Pedro Meduna*

    Night traffic lights in Tokyo

    (English version below)

    A mobilidade urbana tem se transformado de forma acelerada e significativa em todo o mundo. As atuais demandas, tendências e exigências dos usuários têm impulsionado o surgimento de novas soluções tecnológicas em um mercado cada vez mais dinâmico e competitivo. Somado à velocidade desse ecossistema, temos o desafio da mobilidade urbana sustentável, que exige a adoção de novos modelos, capazes de trazer soluções para urbanização contemporânea e para o aumento da frota de veículos nas cidades, aliando isso à ações sustentáveis.

    Em grandes centros como São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro ou qualquer outra metrópole mundial, o trânsito gerado pelo alto número de veículos individuais dificulta a locomoção das pessoas, afeta o meio ambiente e compromete a qualidade de vida pelas condições estressantes dos engarrafamentos, concentrados, principalmente, nas regiões de maior densidade populacional. A grande missão das empresas de mobilidade é a de buscar alternativas reais e inovadoras, o que não significa apenas inventar novas tecnologias, mas também criar soluções inteligentes de deslocamento para um público que disputa espaço com outros passageiros nos transportes coletivos ou com outros carros nas ruas.

    Hoje podemos perceber que a tecnologia vem mudando a maneira com que as pessoas consomem e que essa tendência irá transformar a cultura da mobilidade urbana. Influenciadas pela economia colaborativa – conceito de rede na qual as pessoas acessam a bens e serviços através do compartilhamento, ao invés da aquisição – já podemos notar um movimento no comportamento das pessoas que passaram a basear seus hábitos de consumo em escolhas inteligentes e sustentáveis, focados no coletivo. “Compartilhar a possuir”, essa é a megatendência global e secular.

    Muitas pessoas, por exemplo, estão deixando de comprar carros particulares ou até mesmo vendendo os seus próprios para optarem por novas formas de deslocamento. No entanto, trocar o veículo individual pelo transporte compartilhado ou optar por formas de locomoção mais sustentáveis é ainda uma atitude que exige mais do que boa vontade e trazer o diferencial em uma sociedade que há décadas valoriza o carro como principal meio de transporte se torna a chave para esse processo de transformação.

    A mobilidade como serviço ou Mobility as a Service (Maas), caracterizada pela oferta de transporte personalizado, integrando os mais diversos modais em uma mesma plataforma com o objetivo de ampliar as alternativas de deslocamento das pessoas é, sem dúvida, o caminho para a construção da mobilidade urbana mais sustentável e harmoniosa nas grandes cidades. O centro crucial dessa solução está em buscar a “viagem mais eficiente”, considerando toda jornada do passageiro, desde da saída de casa até o seu destino final, com segurança, pontualidade, rapidez e economia.

    Transformar as cidades em um melhor lugar para viver deve ser o principal propósito de uma empresa do setor de mobilidade. Para atingir este objetivo, é extremamente importante uma estreita colaboração entre os mais diversos operadores do setor e o poder público, buscando, não somente as novas tecnologias, mas também inovação, criação de valor e a transformação desse serviço, com a disponibilização de um sistema inteligente e conectado, capaz de interligar as cidades.

    Assim, mais do que dar opções – desde táxi aéreos, passando por carros compartilhados “peer to peer” e táxis e chegando até a opções de micromobilidade, como os patinetes ou as bicicletas, chamados de “última milha”, aquela última pernada em áreas com alta densidade de trânsito – será possível sugerir qual o meio de transporte mais eficiente para o usuário, de acordo com a sua necessidade naquele momento específico. Ser capaz de processar diferentes dados e informações para lhe oferecer essa informação na interface de um aplicativo é, realmente, entregar o que chamamos hoje de mobilidade como serviço. Esse é o futuro que precisamos construir hoje.

    *Pedro Meduna é Country Manager da Cabify Brasil


    Make cities better places to live in
    By Pedro Meduna *

    Urban mobility has been rapidly and significantly changing around the world. Current user demands have driven the emergence of new technology solutions in an increasingly dynamic and competitive market. In addition to the speed of this ecosystem, we have the challenge of sustainable urban mobility, which requires the adoption of new models, capable of bringing solutions for contemporary urbanization and the increase of the vehicle fleet in cities, combined with sustainable actions.

    In large cities such as São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or any other global metropolis, the traffic generated by the high number of individual vehicles makes it difficult for people to move around, affects the environment and compromises the quality of life due to the stressful conditions of traffic jams, mainly concentrated in the most densely populated regions. Mobility companies’ great mission is to look for real and innovative alternatives, which not only means inventing new technologies but also creating intelligent travel solutions for a public that fights for space with other commuters or other cars on the street.

    Today we can see that technology is changing the way people consume and that this trend will transform the culture of urban mobility. Influenced by the collaborative economy – the concept of networking in which people access goods and services through sharing rather than acquisition – we can already see a movement in the behavior of people who have come to base their spending habits on smart, sustainable, focused choices.

    Many people are no longer buying private cars or even selling their own to opt for new forms of travel. However, exchanging the individual vehicle for shared transport or opting for more sustainable forms of transportation is still an attitude that requires more than goodwill and is disruptive in a society that for decades has valued ​​the car as the main means of transport becomes the key.

    Mobility as a Service (Maas) is characterized by personalized transport, integrating the most diverse modes in one platform with the objective of expanding the alternatives of people displacement. It is undoubtedly the path to sustainable and harmonious urban mobility in large cities. This solution lies in pursuing the “most efficient journey,” taking into account every passenger journey from home to their final destination, safely, on time, quickly and economically.

    Making cities better places to live must be the primary purpose of a mobility business. To achieve this goal, close collaboration between diverse operators in the sector and the government is extremely important, seeking not only new technologies but also innovation, value creation and the transformation of this service, with the provision of a system smart and connected, able to connect cities.

    So more than giving options – from air charter to peer to peer shared cars and taxis, to micro-mobility options like scooters or bikes – it will be possible to suggest the most efficient means of transportation for the user, according to their needs at that specific time. Being able to process different data and information to offer it in an application interface is really delivering what we now call mobility as a service. This is the future we need to build today.

    * Pedro Meduna is Country Manager of Cabify Brasil

    There’s no doubt of the importance of high-speed internet connectivity to economic and social development. As consumers, workers, entrepreneurs or merely citizens, we all benefit from its applications, products and the systems it enables.

    ITU Forum

    Indeed, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) ’s core mandate is connecting the unconnected – which means bringing the digitally disenfranchised of the world online, often those in remote and rural regions, in developing countries and from underrepresented groups such as women, older people, or the disabled.

    Given that some 90% of the world’s population is already able to access at least 2G or 3G mobile data services, why is internet access stuck at just above 51%? What are the stumbling blocks to seeing the benefits of the digital age reaching more and more people across the globe?

    The simple answer is that connectivity alone is not enough.

    This is not to disregard the enormous difficulties in terms of investment costs and infrastructure deployment in what are often challenging topographies, with scattered populations, little or no access to reliable energy sources and markets that render current business models economically inviable.

    These are real barriers to access, which require enormous creativity and innovation to overcome. But to really make a difference, connectivity needs to be supported by access to affordable devices, government awareness initiatives, digital literacy programmes, solutions and applications which are relevant to the local context and daily lives of new users.

    Making connectivity meaningful is a whole new set of challenges – one that ITU Telecom World 2019 is happy to face head on. The leading tech event for governments, big industry players and SMEs, ITU Telecom World is organized each year by ITU, the UN’s principal agency for information and communication technologies. Taking place this year from 9 – 12 September in Budapest, Hungary, on the theme of “Innovating together: connectivity that matters”, the event will host a forum of expert-led critical debates addressing how we can collaborate across sectors and international boundaries to ensure the digital economy is not just accessible, but relevant, equitable and safe for all.

    What new partnerships, regulatory approaches, government initiatives or industry models can impact on increasing meaningful connectivity? Can we create a culture of responsible innovation aimed at improving lives everywhere? How can the public sector, international organizations and industry bodies work together to mitigate digital exclusion?

    These are questions which go to the very heart of the digital society in which many of us already live – and which is expanding exponentially, risking a further deepening of the divide between the connected and the unconnected.

    Technological developments are crucial to increasing meaningful connectivity and bridging the divide. These include the range of new players, applications, and use cases in the world of satellites, such as small satellites, LEOs, HAPS and non-GSO constellations, with the potential to open up global, affordable access and new services.

    Then there’s the growth of 5G as the key enabler of tomorrow’s digital economy, linking smartphones and wireless sensors, powering smart sustainable cities and the fourth industrial revolution. Its unprecedented potential is so great that many 5G services and applications are yet to be discovered, created or understood. But where do we really stand on 5G deployment, what policies and frameworks do we need to accelerate its implementation, and what should the role of government and private sectors be? Is 5G a springboard to the digital society in developing markets, can it be used to meet basic human needs as well as commercial and industrial ends, or will it increase that divide?

    The same questions apply to the future of broadband and the rapid expansion of machine learning and AI. How can we capitalize on the potential of AI to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity – and not leave anyone behind?

    Ensuring connectivity is equitable means establishing the digital principles and values of our increasingly digital future. As machine learning and AI develop, so too does the risk of replicating the biases of the limited few inputting the data behind those powerful algorithms – with potential dramatic ramifications for individuals across, for example, the justice system, employment and financial sectors.

    Dismantling the barriers of disability with technology, creating better accessibility and access to services is critical to inclusion.

    Consumers need to be educated and informed on the importance of data management, from those in developed markets all too happy to trade their privacy for the convenience of connected devices in the home, to the new consumers coming on line in developing markets potentially unaware of the dangers of cyberspace.

    Digital skills, from basic computer literacy to data scientists, must be a government imperative in the digital age. Connectivity without digital literacy is, after all, like a bicycle without wheels – a great idea in principle, but going nowhere.

    Sharing ideas, experiences, case studies and good practice is essential – as are public private partnerships, cross sector partnerships, international partnerships. Making connectivity meaningful is too big a task for any single player. ITU Telecom World 2019 will bring answers to some of these questions, lay the groundwork for potential partnerships – and provide inspiration for shaping a digital future that is accessible, relevant and beneficial for us all.

    ITU Telecom World 2019 takes place in Budapest, Hungary, from 9 – 12 September 2019.

    (Marcus Figueredo)

    There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals

    2030 é o prazo para todos os países do mundo implementarem os 17 Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (ODS) da ONU. Isso quer dizer que os países têm pouco mais de dez anos para atingirem essas metas e, consequentemente, dar mais alguns passos rumo a um planeta mais justo e mais sustentável.

    Mas não são só os líderes políticos que precisam assumir esse desafio. Isso está também em nossas obrigações de cidadão. E mais do que isso, não basta ter empatia com os Objetivos, é preciso buscar alcançar essa mudança. Incluem nessa lista de responsáveis as empresas e seu comprometimento com o crescimento sustentável. Trata-se de uma tendência global: além da responsabilidade social, a sustentabilidade deve estar entre os objetivos do negócio.

    A boa notícia é que muitas empresas, de segmentos distintos, já estão colocando em prática políticas baseadas nos ODS. Apresento aqui alguns exemplos.

    A Cabify neutraliza as emissões de carbono. Isso quer dizer que, a empresa mede suas emissões de dióxido de carbono e as compensa financiando projetos que recompõem a mesma quantidade do gás na atmosfera. A iniciativa busca ajudar a proteger milhões de árvores, combatendo também o aquecimento global e preservando a biodiversidade.

    Uma das maiores companhias do mercado de bebidas do Brasil, a Ambev, oferece uma Aceleradora para empreendedores com soluções ambientais. Através dessa plataforma, desafios de ideias e tecnologias com objetivos sustentáveis serão solucionados. A Aceleradora está presente em todos os países onde a companhia atua. O projeto busca reunir ações de impacto positivo para além dos muros da cervejaria, que buscam construir um legado sustentável para a sociedade e o meio ambiente.

    Na Hi Technologies, o planejamento e o plano de negócios foram desenhados com base no 3º Objetivo: Assegurar uma vida saudável e promover o bem-estar para todos, em todas as idades. A startup, através do uso de tecnologia e inteligência artificial, busca oferecer acesso à saúde para todas as pessoas, independente de sua localização ou condição social, através do Hilab, laboratório portátil, qualquer um pode fazer um exame clínico com um preço muito baixo.

    Portanto, finalizo aqui dizendo que não importa a atuação ou o setor. No final do dia o que precisamos entender é que é necessário se preocupar um pouco mais e de que a sustentabilidade é uma necessidade nas empresas. São esses cuidados que garantirão nosso rumo ao planeta que queremos.

    *Marcus Figueredo é CEO da Hi Technologies, Healthtech que tem como objetivo democratizar o acesso à saúde por meio de tecnologia. O carro-chefe da empresa é o Hilab, laboratório de “bolso” conectado à internet que usa inteligência artificial para acelerar o diagnóstico médico.

    (English version)

    How companies comply with the Sustainable Development Goals

    (Marcus Figueredo)

    2030 is the deadline for all countries in the world to implement the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that countries have a little more than ten years to reach these goals and, therefore, to take a few more steps towards a fairer and more sustainable planet.

    But it is not just the leaders of the countries that need to take up this challenge. This is also our obligation as citizens. And more than that, it is not enough to have empathy with the Goals, we must seek to achieve this change. This includes companies that aim for sustainable growth. It’s a trend: in addition to social responsibility, sustainability must be among the business objectives.

    The good news is that many companies, from distinct segments, are already putting into practice pillars based on SDGs. Here are some examples.

    Cabify neutralizes carbon emissions. This means that the company measures how much carbon dioxide its activities emit to compensate via financing projects that take the same amount of gas out of the atmosphere. The initiative seeks to help protect millions of trees, combat global warming and preserve biodiversity.

    One of the largest beverage companies in Brazil, Ambev, offers an Accelerator for entrepreneurs seeking environmental solutions. Through this platform, challenges of ideas and technologies with sustainable objectives will be solved. The Accelerator is present in all the countries where the company operates. The project seeks to bring together positive actions beyond the walls of the brewery, which seek to build a sustainable legacy for society and the environment.

    At Hi Technologies, the business plan was designed based on Goal 3: Ensure a healthy life and promote well-being for all, at all ages. The startup, through the use of technology and artificial intelligence, seeks to provide access to health for all people, regardless of location or social status; through the Hilab portable laboratory, anyone can do a clinical examination for a very low price.

    Therefore, I finish here saying that it does not matter the performance or the sector. At the end of the day, what we need to understand is that we need to worry a bit more and that sustainability is a necessity for companies. It will guarantee our path to the planet we want.

    * Marcus Figueredo is CEO of Hi Technologies, a Healthtech that aims to democratize access to health through technology. The flagship of the company is the Hilab, an internet-based “pocket” laboratory that uses artificial intelligence to accelerate medical diagnosis.

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