The “big data” revolution must extend to the world’s urban poor. That's the point of a recent essay by David Satterthwaite, senior fellow at the International Institute of Environment and Development. A billion citizens live in informal urban settlements, but little information is collected about them to improve their lives, Satterthwaite writes.
As the international community forges a new set of goals for sustainable development starting in 2015, he recommends more emphasis on “the knowledge and capacity of the urban poor as collectors and users of information.”
Without such intelligence, poor populations may be undercounted and underserved. That’s because mayors of developing cities may not have a complete picture of which citizens need sanitation, health care, schools, sewage, trash pickup and other essentials. Censuses are insufficient because they often do not include informal settlements.
Groups such as Shack/Slum Dwellers International have considerable experience mapping and surveying the urban poor and could conduct this work in tandem with city governments, Satterthwaite advises.