cities-lyon, December 4 - 5


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Local Authorities and Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT Information Services Section Nairobi, Kenya

Most cities in developing countries are characterized by rapid urban growth as well as lack of financial resources and technical know-how to address even the most urgent problems such as housing, access to water and sanitation. Therefore, it is crucial for local authorities to identify priority areas and manage the existing resources efficiently. Often, a lack of reliable up-to-date information does not allow this.

A cooperation between UN-HABITAT and ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), a major US-based GIS software company, can improve the management of local authorities in addressing urban development problems using GIS technology.

UN-HABITAT and ESRI provide GIS software and training for up to 1,000 local authorities in developing countries. This will help them to collect and analyze urban information and use the results for more effective interventions. At the same time, cities can contribute to monitoring the Habitat Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals on the local level.

The provision of GIS software is embedded into a larger framework of activities that aim at improving the capacity of local authorities to link information collection to local policy formulation and finally to performance monitoring.

The projects builds on the experiences of UN-HABITAT's Sustainable Cities Programme that has supported the introduction of Environmental Management Information Systems in over 20 cities worldwide since 1996.

The cost of 1,000 software packages is covered up to US$ 15 million by a grant agreement between UN-HABITAT and ESRI. ESRI provides the software as well as access to online training facilities free of charge for developing countries.

The project started in February 2003 and will be finalized in 2006. So far, over 120 cities have applied for the software grant.

The project has been met with a huge demand mainly from small and medium-sized cities. Those cities have a basic GIS capacity but not the financial resources to buy comparatively expensive software. The introduction of GIS in local authorities requires an integrative approach that links the political and technical departments with the institution.

For more information on this article, please contact Ms. Jane Nyakairu (Chief, Information Services), or Mr. Guenther Gross (Information Technology Officer).