Job Opening

Posting Title: Digital Transformation and Smart Cities in Africa - Consultant
Department/Office: United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Duty Station: NAIROBI
Posting Period: 01 September 2022 - 25 September 2022
Job Opening Number: 22-United Nations Human Settlements Programme-189528-Consultant
Staffing Exercise N/A
United Nations Core Values: Integrity, Professionalism, Respect for Diversity
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Result of Service

The project will contribute to shaping UN-Habitat’s engagement in the digital transformation and urbanization arena in line with Flagship Programme 2 on People-centred Smart Cities.

Work Location


Expected duration

22 days (with possibility of extension)

Duties and Responsibilities

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is the lead United Nations agency for cities and human settlements. The agency is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all and sustainable development. The main documents outlining the mandate of the organization are the Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, the Habitat Agenda, the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and UN General Assembly Resolution A/56/206.

UN-Habitat, being the focal point for all urbanization and human settlement matters within the UN system, has a role in delivering the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted by Member States in 2015, specifically goal 11: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The recent advances in digital technologies – from the internet of things and artificial intelligence to digital platforms for service delivery and 5G for autonomous mobility – are rapidly transforming societies and advancing the capabilities of local governments to deliver services in the digital word. The concept of ‘Smart Cities’ has emerged in recognisance of the potential of digital technology to transform and enhance urban space. Smart cities are interconnected, socially inclusive and resilient areas, which leverage the power of technology, data and innovation to re-engineer the coordination of urban management sectors and improve residents’ quality of life.

Despite recent progresses in the recognition of the importance of data sovereignty, the reality of the digital divide and the need for participation for a better urban future, universal understanding of the Smart Cities concept remains limited and largely driven by technology, privatisation and control and existence of ‘new town’ type smart city projects. Moreover, the concept remains largely outside the realm of mainstream policy implementation with little focus on local governments. In addition, guidance on digitalization is often not tailored to local governments, missing on the opportunity to leverage on technology advancement to solve the specific challenges of the countries at stake. Moreover, many local governments don’t have the right capacities to engage with digital technologies and strategic approach to properly deploy digital technologies and govern them.

Aware of the potential of ICT technologies to accelerate sustainable urban development and to respond to challenges such as climate change, conflicts over natural resources, urban regeneration, informal settlement upgrading and many others, countries vulnerable to the impact of urbanization and climate change have shown major interest in digitalization and smart cities. Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world: by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people, mostly to be living in small and medium-sized towns . Africa’s urban transition offers great opportunities, but it also poses significant challenges. The African continent is not only experiencing high urbanization but is one of the most exposed continents to global warming and climate change episodes. Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources , further lowering living conditions and threating population health. Indian Ocean Island States suffer rising sea levels that reached 5 mm per year, higher than the global mean rate.

African countries, cities and islands are therefore even more eager to take advantage of the practical benefits of improved connectivity, advanced digital solution, GIS capacity, amongst other benefits to spur economic development, generate growth and improve quality of life in an inclusive and sustainable manner. The use of ICT technologies to respond to the above challenges could relieve those countries from increasing adaptation costs though climate resilient development.

The “Digital Smart Cities Toolbox” project, framed within the People-Centered Smart Cities Flagship programme aims to develop a smart city strategy toolbox that can be used by local governments to build their digital capacity, develop smart city strategies and make appropriate decisions about digital technology procurement and implementation. The project will be implemented by a multidisciplinary team combining the technical expertise of United Nations Innovation and Technologies Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC) and UN-Habitat track records globally to support adequate housing and better living conditions in cities and any human settlement. The tool will to be made accessible to all online, can be used by cities’ officials and other key organisations working with cities, to plan, implement and manage their own smart city strategy projects. The toolbox will be first tested in several countries in Africa to then be promoted at the global level. The project will also include forums and learning series to have a common dialogue on how Smart Cities could serve the specific needs of communities. The project will initially be implemented in Africa in collaboration with UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa.

For the execution of this project, UN-Habitat is seeking a Digital Transformation and Smart Cities Expert to support the development of a digital transformation methodology and related processes and tools of the Toolbox. The latter will then be tested and validated in selected African countries. The consultant will be reporting to the Programme Management Officer, Technology, and Innovation. The consultant will directly report to the Lead of Flagship Programme on People-centred Smart Cities. Moreover, the consultant will also closely collaborate with UN-Habitat substantive colleagues at headquarters, particularly the Programme Development Branch, the Innovation Section in the External Relations, Strategy and Innovation Division, UNITAC, OICT as well as work closely with the Regional Office for Africa.

For this consultancy, UN-Habitat is looking for an Expert on Digital Transformation and Smart Cities, with experience in strategies and sectoral policies development and implementation, preferably with some experience in the African continent. This consultancy will technically support the development of normative processes, tools and approaches in the domain of digital transformation and smart cities. The project will contribute to shaping UN-Habitat’s engagement in the digital transformation and urbanization arena in line with Flagship Programme 2 on People-centred Smart Cities. In particular, the consultant will research on good practices globally in the design processes and implementation of digital and smart cities strategies, on the application of frontier technologies to improve citizens life, promote social equality and inclusion, optimize governments processes and services provisions, increase innovation and sustainability in urban settings. She/he will draft the methodology, including the definition of each process (end-to-end process), case studies, tools, and support the team in testing in the countries and cities selected. She/he will also research on the main skillset and capacity needed by national and local administrations to be able to run a smart city plan and related implementing projects independently and efficiently.

Under the supervision of the Programme Management Officer, Technology, and Innovation, the incumbent is expected to perform the following duties, with related outputs, contributing to UN-Habitat’s engagement in the Smart Cities arena and to the specific project development:
1. Conduct desk research, which could include also survey and interviews, focusing on inspiring practices globally and in Africa showing how existing (and new innovative) strategies, policies, tools and methodologies have been (can be) used to improve people living conditions. The research will build on previous UN-Habitat studies and will be enriched with the research findings and validated by the team and external stakeholders.
2. Draft the digital transformation methodology outlining each step and sub-step needed to design and implement a smart city masterplan or strategy, which leverages on inclusive and sustainable ICT technologies and participatory processes within the administrations and with local communities. The Draft Methodology should include the methodological framework, with associated approaches, tools and examples (e.g., templates) for each step of the process. Mapping of competences associated to each phase must be included.
3. Support the team in preparing the ground for the fine-tuning and testing of the methodology into the selected countries and performs other duties relevant to the project as assigned
4. In collaboration with UN-Habitat’s people-centred smart city flagship programme, UNITAC, and the innovation unit, support the integration of the findings and inspiring good practices/case studies into the existing Compendium.

Qualifications/special skills

Academic Qualifications: Advanced university degree in economics, social science, international relations and public policy, urbanism and/or applied computer science is required.
A first level degree (bachelor’s degree or equivalent) in the specific fields of studies with two (2) additional years of relevant work experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree. Certification in ICT and project management (PMI, Prince 2 etc.) is an advantage.
Experience: At least 5 year experience working in the field of digital transformation processes in urban areas with experience of working with and advising cities and local governments on smart cities, digital transformation, digital rights, innovation and frontier technologies from the ideation to the implementation of strategies or sectoral projects is required.
• Experience in writing policy, reports, policy communication and publications and strategies is a desirable;
• Experience in both research projects and in project management (research and/or implementation) and proven experience in supporting national and/or local administrations in developing policies, strategies, guides and toolkits on smart cities, urban planning and e-governance/digital transformation is a desirable;
• Experience in performing capacity needs assessment for public institutions in contexts of digital transformation and change management is a desirable;
• Experience in digital transformation and smart cities projects in the African continent is a desirable.
Language: Fluency in written and oral English is required. Knowledge of French or another UN language is considered an asset.

No Fee


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