(En)gendering the smart city

11 Apr 2019 13:15h - 14:00h

Event report


H.E. Ms Makeda Antoine-Cambridge (Ambassador, Trinidad and Tobago) moderated the session, which looked into technology-driven policies around smart cities. These aim to be inclusive and bottom-up, to leverage people’s knowledge and needs, but which also need to take into account the need for gender-responsive urban technology.

Ms Caitlin Kraft-Buchman (CEO/Founder, Women@theTable) said that smart cities are an opportunity to be strategic. When strategising around smart cities women are often excluded. Cities are traditional places for economic opportunity and liberation, but they are also often places of fear, danger, and violence to women. Cities need to be more than ‘just safe’. She spoke about Smart Cities 3.0 which involves co-creation. Gender analysis makes us question all assumptions. From consultation and innovation, to maintenance and upgrade, there is a need to focus less on end technology, and more on how technology can improve the lives of residents, and serve economic development and sustainability, with gender at the core.

Ms Tatiana Delgado Fernández (Professor, CUJAE and Vice-president, UIC) said that the main UIC goals as part of PADIT are : Capacity building at digital government and local level, and fostering innovation on smart cities at local level by setting up urban labs. The percentage of women studying for ICT careers in Cuba is under 40%. Women in the private sector and in innovative ICT projects are far less represented than men. However, women increasingly occupy responsibilities in ICT profile entities. Their specific focus is on fostering and encouraging a new generation of girls to study in STEM. Women in the private sector are far less represented than men, therefore they are working towards sustainable development goal (SDG) Number 5, by empowering women in tech through awareness, capacity building, and transformation.
Transformation is the most challenging stage, because it is more than just participation for women. It means women offering innovation solutions in relation to smart cities. Competitions on smart cities have been launched to encourage innovation by women. Special prizes have been given for innovative ideas presented by women from 2016 to 2019. Intelligent transportation, Augmenting Reality (AR), and citizen protection services are at the top of the winning innovative ideas from young women.

Mr Adolfo Cuevas Teja (Commissioner, Federal Institute of Telecommunications of Mexico) noted that according to the statistics, more women than men use mobile phones. However the challenge is in the big data, and biases which need to be controlled when reaching conclusions. Improvement of services needs to be led by the idea of achieving goals of both technical efficiency and social value, which also helps women to have a better position in society. For that to happen, women need to be included in the design of plans and programmes. In order to improve active participation of women, Teja said that in their Institute, selection is ‘gender blind’, where it is an automatic process: Before the selection is made they do not ask for a photo or any information which would disclose gender.

Ms Cristina Bueti, (Counsellor, International Telecommunications Union [ITU]), spoke about the United Smart Cities Initiative, a UN platform supported by 60 UN agencies. They cover different issues and produce deliverables, including the issues of engendering smart cities and how to include women in their design. They also focus on including more women in the standardisation work, and are also encouraging capacity building of women by enabling their participation. She agreed with Kraft-Buchman that a safe city is important but, ‘It is not enough’. A smart sustainable city should be built for goals which go beyond only safety.


Report by Aida Mahmutović