United Nations Habitat (UNHabitat)


The UN-Habitat’s vision of “a better quality of life for all in an urbanizing world” is bold and ambitious. UN-Habitat works with partners to build inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. UN-Habitat promotes urbanization as a positive transformative force for people and communities, reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty.

Description of Activities on AI

Project 1: Urban Security Observatory

The Urban Security Observatory (OBSU) is a component of the Project “Support to improve the governance of police services” (2019-2020) in Conakry, Guinea, with the aim to better understand the attitudes of users, police officers and institutions in charge of public security and to enhance relevant responsive decision-making and interventions in the physical environment to prevent and reduce insecurity on public roads and petty crime in public space. Anchored within the Strategy and Development Office (BSD) of the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection (MSPC), this observatory is jointly executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) with funding from the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). The project has trained and equipped dedicated focal points from the security service deployed in a pilot zone (hot spots along the Hamdallaye-Kagbelen highway) and selected emergency services from hospitals, which ensure data collection and feedback via tablets. A Management Cell team is installed within the BSD of the MSPC in charge of data processing (four type of data collected), analysis, interpretation and reporting on quarterly basis to inform the Ministry’s interventions.

Project 2: Public control of AI in Cities

UN-Habitat supports the Cities for Digital Rights Coalition which works to protect and uphold human rights on the internet at the local and global level. This city-led initiative aims to use procurement policies to encourage trustworthy AI. These mechanism aim to ensure that the public has access to understandable and accurate information about the AI system and how these impact their lives. They should be able to question to question and change unfair, biased or discriminatory systems. A Standard Procurement Clause and an AI-Registry were developed as policy tools to advance Public Control on AI in cities. If a Municipality uses an Algorithmic System that is provided by a Contractor, it can use such a clause to make certain arrangements with that Contractor to enable the City to make fair, lawful, and transparent Decisions using an Algorithmic System. Both the Procurement Clause and the AI Registry are proofs-of-concept and are now to be tested and implemented in other cities within the CC4DR network. Other policy tools, such as an Audit and Quality Framework, a Starterskit for Cities are currently being developed. In collaboration with Mozilla Foundation, the AINOW Institute and NESTA a position paper was created on the important of Ethical Procurement Guidelines in AI. Procurement and contract conditions are both very powerful and practical instruments for public sector authorities to assure AI-enabled systems comply with fundamental rights. The Cities of London, Helsinki and Amsterdam have led this work, while other cities in the network are encouraged to use the newly developed tools.

Project 3: Fair AI in Cities – Cities Challenge program

Also a part of the Cities for Digital Rights Coalition, the purpose of this program is to facilitate applied research in digital rights and the responsible use of AI and automated decision making that is grounded in the real-world context of local governments. The goal is to produce replicable and scalable insights, guidelines and best practices; case studies; concrete improvements to real-world systems; and template or reference solutions that champion digital rights principles. In the program, local challenges are issued by CC4DR member cities and fall into each respective Digital Rights Declaration category. Research institutions, Principal Investigators, or teams of researchers are invited to join in the challenges and provide insight via qualitative data gathering of local government, case-studies while conducting in-depth use-cases studies of technology and political systems in local government or applicable solutions while creating a solution or pilot project that leverages digital rights.

Project 4: CC4DR Working Group on Fair AI in Cities

The Cities for Digital Rights Coalition working group on Fair AI from the CC4DR focuses on fair, accountable and transparent AI in cities. Cities join forces in this working group in order to develop tools, policy guidelines and best-practices in this field. Via events, online articles and webinars different methods, collaborations and use-cases are being shared. The Cities of Austin, New York, Amsterdam, London and Helsinki have previously shared their knowledge with other cities within the network. Guidelines for Ethical AI, Explainable AI mechanisms and an AI Ethics Training Course for employees are examples of joined deliverables so far. These deliverables are re-usable for other cities in the network. Moreover, the working groups stimulates ongoing peer-to-peer discussions among cities to leverage lessons learned so far as well as shared challenges ahead. In collaboration with Eurocities, a joined position-statement on AI was created. The working group is an ongoing initiative, driven by member cities and their local challenges. Finally, potential partnerships are being established to leverage the network of cities as well as partner organizations.

Project 5: GoLand Registry – Block chain technology- Innovation for Secure Tenure and Revenue Generation in Afghanistan, 2020-2025

UN-Habitat is supporting the Government of Afghanistan to leapfrog conventional technologies for land registration and land-based taxation. UN-Habitat has partnered with UNOICT to introduce blockchain technology to improve tenure security and increase municipal revenues to enhance stability, self-reliance and local economic development.

Scroll Up