Around the world, policymakers and citizens alike are calling for innovative solutions to address the growing problem of waste management in their communities. The UN estimates that more than 2 billion people do not have access to waste collection services and 3 billion people lack access to waste disposal facilities. Exacerbated by an increasing population, the total waste generated globally is estimated to double from 2 to 4 billion tons by 2050.
Recognizing an urgent need for action, SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, sets the target to reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities by 2030 by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management issues (indicator 11.6). The Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), a small woman-owned business specializing in tech-enabled solutions to development issues, sees civic technology as one strategy to advance this goal.
Civic technology refers to digital innovations that enable citizens to engage with governments and/or each other in order to drive participation in public decision-making processes. When implemented appropriately, civic tech has the potential to drive accountability of the public sector, leverage critical resources from the private sector, and amplify the voices of civil society.
Examples of successful initiatives can be found in a range of development contexts, from Array of Things in Chicago, Banyan’s Better Plastic initiative in India, and Virtual Singapore; in all cases, the success of such initiatives is predicated on active citizen engagement at all levels. Ultimately, building a civic tech ecosystem that helps “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” (SDG 11) is the global call to action – one that I4DI intends to answer.
Earlier this year, I4DI was awarded a three-year, USAID-funded civic tech project in Cambodia, with the goal to increase the responsiveness, accountability, and transparency of public Waste Management Services (WMS) on the local level. Using a human-centered design approach to develop and introduce a mobile-based application for use by both service providers and private citizens, I4DI hopes to introduce a circular economy approach to current waste management practices and enhance the expression of citizens’ rights.
With better informed WMS providers offering improved services, and an empowered citizenry participating in decision-making around WMS issues, increased resource recovery efforts will promote the circular economy model in the country (Reduce-Reuse-Recycle). By building on existing WMS improvement efforts and fostering effective collaboration between these three parties, I4DI aims to affect long-lasting, locally-led positive change in Cambodia’s waste management services domain.
In the month of October, our project team had the opportunity to travel to Battambang, our project’s headquarters, to meet with the country’s USAID mission and our local staff to kick off project startup activities. We believe that the best civic tech solutions incorporate the voice of the end-user in each step of the development process, so our early activities, which include initial stakeholder mapping and political economy analysis, are already revealing important levers that the project can pull in addressing waste management problems that plague Cambodia today, such as grassroot civil society actions and emerging market driven solutions.
One such example is the volunteer youth effort by Garbage Youth, an alliance of young people committed to cleaning the canals of their local communities in Phnom Penh. In just a few months, they have already gathered volunteers of all ages with an interest in seeing a cleaner, safer, and healthier surrounding environment. I4DI looks forward to partnering with groups like Garbage Youth, civil society organizations, private sector, and grassroots waste management entrepreneurs, for input in the ideation and utilization of our mobile application.
The Institute for Development Impact not only works to advance the SDGs through our project implementation in Cambodia, but also helps other organizations in their efforts to align their own portfolios with the 2030 goals. Most recently, the I4DI team partnered with Mars. Incorporated to strengthen engagement of youth and contribute to professionalization of coca farming in the province of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
The United Nations has affirmed that we will only meet the critical 2030 targets through the collective mobilization of both public and private resources. I4DI is uniquely suited to be the bridge between these stakeholders, building broad coalitions to address the most intractable problems of the day. With these partnerships, rigorous data, and an eye for innovation, I4DI is doing our part to create change at scale in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.
About Institute for Development Impact (I4DI): Institute for Development Impact (I4DI) is a woman-owned small business specializing in innovative, technology enabled solutions to improve global development effectiveness. We are a mission driven organization that utilizes its strong competencies in user-centric, contextualized and complexity aware design, applied research, monitoring, evaluation and software development to improve development practice. With our broad-based expertise and vast network of affiliated consultants, we provide high quality program and organizational effectiveness consulting services all over the world, covering the entire project cycle from conception to implementation and evaluation. Learn more about I4DI at https://www.institutefordevelopmentimpact.com/about-us/