Smart cities are more intelligent when they are inclusive. Karen Martínez believes that includes the spaces and infrastructure of university campuses, too.
In Panama, she took part in an award winning team of students who mapped each floor of each building, along each sidewalk, and many other attributes of the college grounds. Her alma mater, Universidad de Panama sits along the Transístmica in the heart of Panama City.
"You must go beyond the classroom," says Karen. In doing so, she took part in an innovative step to move her institution into an era of digital modernization. Newcomers or tourists visiting her campus typically have had a hard time finding their way without already knowing the layout. Others with mobility challenges have difficulty knowing how to circumvent broken sidewalks or avoid areas without ramps. Students, especially women attending night class need information to orient towards areas with plenty of parking and light.
With the data collected by the YouthMappers at the University of Panama, a smart city analysis was created and an app was built for use by the public. By including diverse voices, of women, and of youth themselves, the process of creating this novel interactive map was a more inclusive one.
Thanks to YouthMappersUP members and leaders, Karen Martínez, Maritza Rodríguez, Karoline Castillo, Genesis Tuñón, Cristina Gómez, Francisco Olivella and Professors Dr. Maria Adames de Newbill and Humberto Smith; Rocio Vega, Yennifer Cedeño, and Oscar Vega of Esri Panama.
The data revolution – the geospatial revolution in particular – can make places that were previously challenging to navigate, more intelligible and more intelligent. But without considering gender perspectives on the locations and use of space, typical technological transformation projects risk reinforcing male bias in design, and leave women and girls even further behind.
The majority of humans on planet earth now lives in cities. Scientists believe this will grow from one half to two thirds in the next three decades. Among those urban dwellers, experts estimate that one billion will be located in informal settlements, lacking needed infrastructure for sanitation, transportation, and housing. Inclusive and smart city innovation promise to innovate our urban homes, but needs to reach the most vulnerable people. Among them, women often are disproportionately affected by unsafe, unhealthy, and insecure city infrastructure. Scholars lament that sometimes women are invisible in the urban planning process, let alone the smart city revolution. But by bringing young women’s voices like Karen’s into the dialogue and by incorporating spatial data that puts their concerns on the map, we can help ensure that the future of humanity in cities could become more inclusive – and smarter.
These mapping and data collection efforts, led by female emerging student leaders in the YouthMappers network, hold the potential to benefit millions around the world by making available critical, mapping data relevant to half the world’s population, so that security improves, lives are saved, power is generated, prosperity rises, and innovation happens.