It’s a matter of speed and accuracy – Decentralized, responsible social enterprise!

By Lefteris Charalambous

In my opinion urbanization will be one of the predominant social forces of our generation, especially in emerging countries and it will create great challenges and tensions, especially since the speed of urbanization seems to be much greater than the speed of developing mechanisms and infrastructure to accommodate the inflow of people. We can leverage the dynamics of this phenomenon by developing a flexible yet accurate way of addressing the main infrastructure issues of these growing urban settings. The enabler to do this could be market driven but socially focused entrepreneurship.

The objectives of addressing these challenges should be clearly articulated: (1) Provide access to basic infrastructure to people, (2) Improve living standards and (3) Create a framework for economic development. The second input in this equation should always be the context. Each emerging country, specific region, city or even part of the city is a unique ecosystem that required effort to decipher and understand. Having all the above in mind, it is very difficult to imagine a concentrated central planning unit making successful decisions for this very diverse and at the same time unmapped group of urban eco-systems.

In my mind, a way to gain the extensive reach and flexibility required to address this is through decentralized entrepreneurship. The local expertise and the ability to implement the product at a small scale can be crucial in successfully addressing issues such as distribution of fresh water (similar to Sarvajal), generation of energy, recycling, basic medical care etc. Continue reading

Smaller, Cheaper Everywhere

By Jonah Wagner

Cities benefit from economies of scope and scale which tend to make them more ‘efficient’ places to live. In most countries around the world, it is ‘greener’ to live in a city than outside of it.[1] Home and work are closer together, reducing transportation time and cost. Population density also allows for the development of large, centralized, public utility infrastructure – lowering costs for energy generation and transmission, water purification and distribution, waste collection and management, etc. Historically, these utilities have benefitted significantly from scale.

Example: Water purification costs by plant size[2]

This may be changing. New technologies (e.g., remote sensors) are making possible the coordination of modular, scalable, decentralized systems of public service delivery in cities. Continue reading