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UNDP, Ooredoo host first ever Urban Innovation Challenge in Maldives

Mariyam Malsa
01 November 2018, MVT 10:43
Participants at UNDP's Urban Innovation Challenge. PHOTO/UNDP
Mariyam Malsa
01 November 2018, MVT 10:43

United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in partnership with telecom giant Ooredoo Maldives, concluded the Urban Innovation Challenge, last weekend at a ceremony held in Hulhumale’.

The Challenge brought together 32 young Maldivians to brainstorm ideas to increase urban resilience in Hulhumale’ as part of UNDP’s push to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

A one week workshop was hosted in Farukolhufushi, in Hulhumale’, which gave the participants access to expertise from local public service providers and guidance from a set of mentors ranging from successful entrepreneurs to urban development specialists.

Hawwa Nashfa, a member of the runner-up team, delivered a word of thanks at the closing ceremony, which was attended by Shoko Noda, the UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives.

While Nashfa shared warm sentiments regarding the opportunities provided by the pre-incubation workshop and challenge phase, the true impact of the Urban Innovation Challenge is yet to be seen.

The teams which earned the top three positions will be given seed-funding to prototype their projects over a six-month period, after which they will be publicly implemented. Technical assistance will be made available to the teams during the incubation phase.

The best ideas were determined by a panel of judges, according to criteria which prioritized sustainability, impact and outreach. The proposed projects had to have a ‘deep lasting impact’ and benefit at least 10 percent of Hulhumale’s population.

UNDP partnered up with Ooredoo Maldives and Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to host the event, with further assistance from public service providers, Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), and Waste Management Corporation Ltd (WAMCO).

Generous support was also provided by Seoul Metropolitan Government, which awarded monetary prizes to be utilized as seed-funding during the incubation phase.

The Three Challenges

The Urban Innovation Challenge focused on three key aspects, based on which the event’s supporting and partnering organisations, who are all service providers in relevant fields, presented challenges.

The challenge presented by HDC revolved around social housing. While the units in Hulhumale' were thoroughly planned, a consistent effort must be made to improve and maintain the quality of life for residents, considering the projected increases in population.

WAMCO presented a challenge regarding urban waste reduction and management. Waste disposal is a recurring issue in the Greater Male region where Hulhumale' is located. Permissive social attitudes contribute to high rates of littering.

The challenge presented by MTCC concerned the increasing levels of urban mobility.

The need to strengthen the public transport system grew following the inauguration of the Sinamale Bridge, which provided a physical link between Hulhumale' and the capital city, increasing demand for bus services.

The participants, aged between 18 and 34, divided themselves into nine teams to collectively create solutions to the aforementioned challenges to sustainable development.

And the winner is...

Digital Town Hall: participatory decision making

Winning team of UNDP's Urban Innovation Challenge. PHOTO/UNDP

The winning team proposed to establish a mobile application based platform to link HDC with the citizens of Hulhumale. Their innovative idea focused on the issue of social housing proposed by HDC.

The Digital Town Hall will provide HDC with a consistent source of feedback and opinions without necessitating additional spending on surveys.

In addition, the app will include a community noticeboard that can be utilized by citizens to increase the outreach of communal events.

Special features will also be added to maximize availability to people with special needs.

The platform aims to provide a convenient method to include the public in decision-making and facilitate closer communal relationships.

One Rufiyaa Campaign; a container deposit scheme

The runner-up scheme, ‘One Rufiyaa’ Campaign, is a container deposit scheme proposed to solve the challenge to waste management.

As the name suggests, a one Rufiyaa addition is made to the price of single-use packagings such as water bottles and tin cans. Consumers can reclaim 80 percent of the deposit by returning the empty packagings to designated collection points.

Collection points are to be run by workers to prevent over-dependence on technology which cannot be manufactured or repaired in the country.

The scheme aims to reduce urban waste by providing an incentive to be responsible regarding personal waste.

Smart Bus Schedules; strengthening the public transport system

The judges decided to collectively award the third place to four different teams, which proposed similar ideas to meet the challenge to increase social mobility in Hulhumale.

The project proposes to create a mobile application which will provide commuters real-time information on bus and ferry schedules.

The application aims to increase access to convenient public transport for large numbers of people travelling between Male’ and Hulhumale’, as well as within the latter.

A pleasant surprise

Participants at UNDP's Urban Innovation Challenge. PHOTO/UNDP

The second and third-place runner-ups received a pleasant surprise at the closing ceremon, from Pavani Reddy, Governance Specialist at UNDP who also mentored participants during the workshop.

While the winning team was always set to receive MVR 120,000 as seed-funding, the panel of judges decided to award additional consolation prizes to the second and third place holders as they were immensely impressed by the ideas they pitched.

The consolation prizes amount to MVR 75,000 each, which will also be spent on prototyping projects during the six-month incubation phase, after which all three ideas are expected to be implemented.

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