International nonprofits, G3ict and World Enabled joined by Microsoft, announced today at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2017 in Barcelona that they will make the Smart Cities for All Digital Inclusion Toolkit available in five additional languages - Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, and Marathi - in addition to English, Portuguese, and Spanish languages versions.
According to the United Nations, most countries in the world are becoming increasingly urban. This urbanization is especially pronounced in the Global South, including Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In 2016, 1.7 billion people — 23 per cent of the world’s population — lived in a city with at least 1 million inhabitants. By 2050, the share of urban population is projected to increase up to 75 per cent. Such scale of urbanization makes the concept of inclusive urban development critically important. Smart Cities have the potential to provide their citizens with a more equitable, comfortable, and secure environment. Advanced information and communications technologies (ICTs) are making Smart Cities more inclusive.
At the same time, today there are more than 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. With urbanization, many of them already live or will soon live in cities. As cities increasingly leverage technology to engage their citizens, the accessibility of ICTs will be play a key role in ensuring digital services provided by cities reach all citizens, including those with disabilities and older persons.
In 2016, James Thurston, Vice President of G3ict, and Dr. Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled, launched the Smart Cities for All (SC4A) global initiative to narrow the digital divide for persons with disabilities and older persons. In May 2017, the SC4A global initiative launched its Digital Inclusion Toolkit, providing cities with a model policy for procuring technology, an inventory of three key standards that define ICT accessibility criteria, strategies for communicating the importance of digital inclusion in cities, and an alpha version of the database of Smart City solutions that could benefit persons with disabilities in cities. Today, each of these tools becomes available in five additional languages, bringing the total to eight.
“Thousands of city leaders in hundreds of cities will now be able to access critical tools in their native languages,” says Dr. Victor Pineda. “We are proud of the partnerships we are forming with leading global stakeholders and networks to quickly get these critical tools in the hands of key decision makers today.”
Availability of the Smart Cities for All Toolkit in Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, and Marathi will allow thousands of cities to review their policies in different spheres and to become truly inclusive, modern and open for everybody. Charlotte McClain Nhlapo, Global Disability Advisor at the World Bank, underlines: “To operationalize Inclusive Smart Cities, we need a suite of good tools on digital inclusion and digital accessibility. The SC4A toolkit is a welcomed contribution to advancing article 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals. It's also exciting to know that the toolkit will be available in 8 key languages to make it accessible to many of our partners.”
“Microsoft is excited to partner with G3ict and World Enabled to help drive the next wave of inclusive and connected city solutions. The introduction of the Smart City for All toolkit in 8 languages provides new opportunities for local leaders to ensure their community’s digital transformation reaches everyone, leaving no one behind,” said Trudy Norris-Grey, Managing Director, Microsoft CityNext. “As technology and urbanization continue to change the way governments interact with citizens, Microsoft CityNext applauds the work Smart City for All is delivering and their continued efforts to scale tools and resources globally to support city development for all.”
“G3ict and World Enabled’s Smart Cities for All initiative exposes a stark problem and describes a risk for persons with disabilities in today’s Smart Cities - a growing digital divide,” comments Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director at The International Disability Alliance. “The fact that their tools are now available in 8 languages will contribute to digital inclusion worldwide. Thank you SC4A for taking this step forward.”
“I appreciate the Smart Cities for All (SC4A) initiative for bringing out the maturity model, designed to help cities assess and benchmark their level of digital inclusion and ICT accessibility. I am extremely happy that this tool will be available free and also in regional languages,” said Prashant Ranjan Verma, General Secretary of the India National Association for the Blind. “This tool will bring the much-needed focus on digital inclusion, which often gets overshadowed by the emphasis on physical accessibility. Such tools and best practice compilation is much needed since nothing earlier was available to compare level of digital inclusion in cities worldwide. Without accessibility of ICT infrastructure and services, a large section of the population is in the danger of getting far left behind due to digital divide.”