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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.

The Horyou Community has much to celebrate – from our global reach to our successful activities, we are proposing effective solutions for better times to come

SIGEF 2019 by Horyou

2020 is starting on a positive note: Horyou is growing bigger, more global, and it is spreading a positive message to the planet and its people. We have much to celebrate, and we would like to share with you the main highlights of the year that has passed:

  • HoryouToken, the digital currency for Inclusion and sustainability, was successfully launched worldwide and presented to the main global Blockchain audiences, in events including WSIS Forum 2019, Matinée Fintech, Blockchain Economic Forum and Chain Plus.

  • The 6th Edition of SIGEF took place last September in Tokyo, one of the worlds’ most innovative metropolis, covering critical global topics like Artificial Intelligence for Positive Change, Fintech and Blockchain, MedTech, SDGs, Sustainable Lifestyles, Sports for Good, Future Energy and Smart Mobility. Extensive converage and info on our SIGEF website.

  • Horyou community has expanded and strengthened its presence in Asia Pacific and Africa. Yonathan Parienti, Horyou’s Founder and CEO, and the Horyou team presented initiatives and shared inspiration in global events including the Future Here Summit, Oxygen 2050, Doing Good, Doing Well and many others.

  • Horyou media presence was stronger and much more diverse – from Asia to the Americas, in Japanese, English, French, Arabic and many more languages, we made our voice heard.

  • Horyou TV launched new documentaries and raised awareness about urgent causes such as Plastic Pollution and Refugees.

  • Our community has grown bigger, with more members, partners and personalities.

2020 full of surprises

The Horyou Team is now preparing its very first projects of 2020. We are proud of what we’ve achieved so far and we will bring even more visibility to our community and our projects this year through:

  • The Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum – SIGEF – will have a special edition in Davos on January 22nd, during the World Economic Forum. Book your tickets and be part of one of the most important international gatherings fostering the UN SDGs, Sustainable Innovation and Blockchain for Good.

  • The next full edition of SIGEF will still take place in Dubai! Follow SIGEF 2020 Twitter account to know more.

  • Expect more partnerships, events and networking projects supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, economic inclusion and social entrepreneurship all around the world.

Follow our blog, our social media channels (TwitterLinkedIn and Youtube) and Horyou, the social network for social good. The Horyou Team wishes a Happy New Year to all of our members and partners around the world!

Gender equality is not only a matter of fair pay or of more representation in power roles: it’s a matter of development, peace and a positive future for all. The role of cities and regions when it comes to building a better future for both women and men is a hot topic in 2019: while new studies and reports are being launched, more initiatives are becoming visible and gaining strength, raising the debate about how to include the Sustainable Development Goal 5 into municipal policies.

The city of Barcelona, in Spain, launched a program which supports the creation and growth of women-led businesses

Launched earlier this year, the EU’s Gender Equality Monitor (GEM) is one of the tools that measure women’s disadvantage relative to men in many regions. The early conclusions already point to a clear direction: countries, regions and cities that invest in gender equality are richer and less corrupt than the ones that don’t. The Monitor shows that GDP is higher in regions where women are less disadvantaged and that a government is of a higher quality when more women are involved. A research conducted by the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, presents evidence that female representation is strongly negatively associated with both grand and petty corruption.

Creating space for women’s voices and needs is then an essential step towards building better cities and regions – governments with more women involved can perform better by investing wisely in minimizing inequality. Be it deconstructing damaging stereotypes, changing budget allocation or supporting female entrepreneurs, there are many ways cities can support gender equality. The new report Gender Equal Cities, published by the EU, highlights innovative initiatives that are simple to replicate and have already been implemented in several European cities.

For example, in Cascais, Portugal, the city council provided training for all public staff in its communications department on how to avoid reproducing traditional, outdated gender stereotypes in their digital and print materials.

Yet, these projects are not only about direct gender discrimination – they plan to include more women in community projects and help them occupy more urban spaces. In Bologna, Italy, the city recruited, trained and empowered young women to act as ambassadors against minorities discrimination, namely Roma, Sinti and Camminanti communities, while in Romania, the city of Râmnicu Sărat took inexpensive measures to include more women into their municipal sports facilities, which were disproportionally used by men: After consulting female citizens, they changed the way they advertise the services and provided women-only sessions to make them feel more welcome.

By its very nature, gender equality is a long-term goal. Rather than offering ready-made solutions, it’s a starting point: a trigger for the right questions to be posed to support all urban policymakers in improving gender equality in Europe.’ says report co-author Sally Kneeshaw.

City leaders

While making up for more than half of the population, women are underrepresented in regional assemblies (28,6%) and municipal councils (36%) in Europe, which only has 15% female mayors. The traditional gender equality issues continue to raise attention: women are paid 16% less than men, perform more unpaid work and experience more gender-related violence. By working with city leaders, the EU has been transforming existing knowledge into clear recommendations that drive the gender-equality agenda with 5 pillars: Representation & Participation, Governance, Economic Equality, Public Services, Planning & Public Space and Migrant Integration.

Regarding Economic Equality, for instance, the city of Barcelona, in Spain, launched Lidera31, a program which supports the creation and growth of women-led businesses, as well as empowers women to reach more senior roles in their professional careers. The initiative has trained over 1000 women in skills development, business support and networking, aiming to close both the entrepreneurship gap and the pay gap.

What can your city do?

The report ends on a provocative note to all policymakers: what can cities do to move forward with the gender equality agenda? The answer lies in exchanging experiences; promoting open dialogues that respect different perspectives; raising awareness, bringing marginalised women’s experiences to the fore and continuing to identify, capture and share why gender equality is important and what actions can drive change.

Gender Equal Cities must continue to be addressed and communicated as a fundamental right, and then makes cities good places for all.

    SIGEF2019
    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.

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    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
    HoryouToken
    Cognitive Research Labs, Inc

    Contact:
    Vivian Soares, Horyou Media Relations
    media@horyou.com
    +41 (0) 22 321 98 20

    Horyou is proud to support the global efforts to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages (SDG3). As part of our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, we invite Dr. Alexey Kulikov from the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases, based at the World Health Organization, as a guest writer.
    Growing ageing populations have resulted in a 30%
    increase in the global prevalence of mental health disorders since 1990
    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health disorders account for 30% of the non-fatal disease burden and 10% of the overall disease burden, worldwide. Mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders, including autism (1).
    Growing ageing populations have resulted in a 30% increase in the global prevalence of mental health disorders since 1990 (2). The heavy burden of mental disorders and small proportion of national budgets earmarked for mental health (less than US$2 per person per year in low and middle-income countries) has resulted in a substantial gap between the need and availability of mental health disorders and treatments (1). Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases go undetected and untreated due to the lack of mental health care available in many countries. Mental health is an integral part of an individual’s capacity to lead a fulfilling and productive life, and persons with untreated mental disorders experience an average of 10-20 years reduction in life expectancy (3).
    The high burden of mental disorders is not just of public health concern but has growing economic implications, too. Common mental disorders alone cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion per year, resulting in increased health and welfare expenditures as well as reduced economic productivity (4). Persons with mental health conditions are more likely to exit the labor force, miss days of work or perform at a reduced capacity while at work.
    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Ministry of Health of Jamaica and RTI International developed a pilot Mental Health Investment Case in Jamaica in 2018. The investment case modeled clinical interventions selected by Jamaica’s Ministry of Health to scale up treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and psychoses disorders. The selected scale-up of interventions was projected to cost approximately 16 billion JMD in the next 15 years but also to lead to large economic productivity and social benefit gains valued at approximately 60 billion JMD over the same period (5). The take-away point from this study in Jamaica is that the benefits of mental health treatment significantly outweighed the costs by 375%.
    The need to address social and economic challenges posed by mental disorders was highlighted during the High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in 2018 (6). Together, UNDP along with WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and the WHO Secretariat for the United Nations Interagency Task Force for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (UNIATF) is developing the methodology for mental health investment cases to enable national governments to develop national mental health investment cases to strengthen their responses to mental health disorders and promote health and well-being.
    Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages is the Sustainable Development Goal #3
    Capitalizing on UNIATF’s experience in development of national NCD investment cases, mental health investment cases will assist national governments in estimating the “hidden” cost of mental disorders resulting from labor force reductions, presenteeism and absenteeism. Based on empirical, nationally owned data and WHO and UNDP tools, analyses from mental health investment cases will identify the leading behavioral, social and environmental risk factors in a country and propose concrete national policies and relevant clinical interventions to combat mental health disorders. From these analyses, an estimation of the return on investments (ROIs) of scaled-up action for the treatment and prevention of mental disorders will be calculated. These ROIs will compare the monetary value of health impacts and economic outcomes of scaled-up interventions with the cost of these interventions. As in the case of NCD Investment Cases, ROIs will allow ministries of health to make compelling economic arguments for taking multi-sectoral and holistic action to promote, protect and restore mental health.
    By Alexey Kulikov, Jenna Patterson, Mark Humphrey Van Ommeren,Dudley Tarlton and Nicholas Banatvala 
    1. World Health Organization, 2014. Mental health atlas. Available at https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/178879/9789241565011_eng.pdf
    2. World Health Organization, 2019. Investing in Mental Health for Sustainable Development. Available athttps://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/324949/WHO-UHC-CD-NCD-19.99-eng.pdf
    3. Firth, J. et al., 2019. A blueprint for protecting physical health in people with mental illness.. Lancet Psychiatry.
    4. Chisholm, D. et al., 2016. Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: a global return on investment analysis. Lancet Psychiatry.
    5. Scaling up treatment for depression, anxiety and psychosis in Jamaica: A return on investment analysis, 2018. RTI International.
    6. United Nations General Assembly resolution 73/2. Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. A/RES/73/2 (10 October 2018) from undocs.org/en/A/RES/73/2

    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.

    Copyrighted_Marton_Kovacs_2019

    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

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