urban planning Archives


The Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka and the Young Planners Association of Sri Lanka organized a workshop at the UDA premises on 4th December 2015 for LIRNEasia to share is ongoing research on leveraging mobile network big data for urban and transportation planning. The slides are available HERE.
Multiple authors; truly multi-disciplinary; published in the center of gravity of our work. I am excited, even though it is still behind a paywall at the Economic and Political Weekly: There is a middle path that positions the citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of urban development as the primary sensors. Instead of seeing the city as a clock-work machine that can be perfectly controlled, this approach recognizes the inherent complexity of the system and supports incremental changes, following the Deng Xiaoping dictum of “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Experimentation and learning are integral to the approach. This low-cost approach is especially appropriate for the organically developed, congested cities in developing countries where the costs of installing and maintaining city-owned sensors would be quite high.
On 16th January, 2015 at the invitation of the Sri Lanka Institution of Engineers LIRNEasia presented a public lecture in Colombo on the results of our ongoing big data for development research. The public lecture was organized by The Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) and attracted over 40 people in person and an unknown number via streaming at the Wimalasurendra Auditorium in the IESL head office. LIRNEasia’s Founding Chair Rohan Samarajiva and Researcher, Danaja Maldeniya presented some of the initial findings of relevance to urban and transportation planning. They were joined in the Q&A by Sriganesh Lokanathan. The presentation slides are available HERE.
Over the past weeks, Sriganesh Lokanathan and I made multiple presentations on the above subject to potential funders and data donors in multiple countries, using the slideset given here. In an ideal world, we would be using our energy making presentations to those could make better informed policy decisions as a result (we have done such presentations and plan to do more in January 2015), but these efforts are also necessary. Without data and without money, this kind of public-interest research cannot be continued.
Technology, especially measuring and monitoring technology, does not exist in a power vacuum. As we struggle with getting our hands on data and finding the best ways of extracting insights, we should also give some thought to power dynamics. Reading this may get the process started. Life in a smart city is a frictionless; free of traffic congestion, optimally lit, with everything from bins to buildings constantly reporting their status and managing their interactions with residents. The smart slum is still a peripheral idea, but we can speculate on the likely impact of extending this ‘smartness’ to slums and make two competing claims.
The Hindu Businessline, a newspaper with sophisticated business coverage especially on ICT issues, has introduced our big data work to its readers. Can telecom networks be used for better urban planning? Colombo-based ICT think tank, LIRNEasia, has completed a project which used data from telecom networks in Sri Lanka to generate patterns related to population movement that showed concentration of people in a city at any given time of the day. LIRNEasia used data generated from mobile usage to create heatmaps that showed for example, how Colombo city acts as a sink, sucking people out of the surrounding suburbs during work times and North Colombo, which is the poorest part of the city, is integrally connected to the southern part of the city, providing labour to the rest of the city. Full report.