UN-Habitat is looking for people with skills in digital technologies, innovation and smart cities

Reposted: UN-Habitat is the UN programme for sustainable urbanization. We work for a better urban future. Based in over 90 countries, we promote the development of socially and environmentally sustainable cities, towns and communities with adequate shelter and better living standards for all. UN-Habitat is the coordinating agency within the United Nations System for human settlement activities and, in collaboration with governments, is responsible for promoting and consolidating collaboration with all partners, including local authorities, private and non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, Goal 11:  “Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, as well as the task manager of the human settlements chapter of Agenda 21  and focal point for the monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the New Urban Agenda.


Submission period

Our new Strategic `Plan 2020-2023, positions UN-Habitat as a major global entity, a centre of excellence and innovation that refocuses its niche as the thought leader and go-to agency setting the global discourse and agenda on sustainable urban development. A key new area of increased focus in the strategic plan is on frontier technologies and innovation. This requires capacity-building in local government and across the built environment professions to turn smart city plans and the use of frontier technologies in urban planning, design and regeneration into people-centered opportunities that pay particular attention to underserved populations.

For us, innovation is key to developing solutions that can accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, while considering the scale and speed of urbanization, and the impacts of climate change and new technology. To make this happen, we need to put in place the right institutional conditions – making innovation part of every job across the organization and ensuring that innovative solutions are used by everyone. We need to explore state-of-the-art funding opportunities, partnerships and methodologies, such as open and challenge driven innovation and build the capacity of local government to effectively procure, test and implement frontier technologies.

As an organization, we are also increasingly being asked to advice our government partners on issues related to digital transformation, urban innovation and smart cities. In February 2020, we launched a new global flagship programme on people-centered smart cities. Our Global Future Cities Programme which provides technical support to 19 cities in 10 countries has a major component on smart technologies. In the second half of 2020, we intend to launch a groundbreaking urban open innovation initiative.

To deliver on this, we need to start strengthening the innovation and technology capacity of our own organization and make us a UN agency fit to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and accelerate towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This means expanding our partnerships and engaging individual capacities with skills beyond what we currently have. We will need data scientists, programmers, smart city strategists and people with experience of open innovation, digital urban planning, smart mobility, design thinking, digital rights, open data, digital transformation of government, digital policy and governance and much more. Project management, design and language skills are all valued along with international experience.

We want to initially build a pool of experts that we can support our initiative as project-based consultants, and can be deployed at short notice to various projects or on part-time basis to accompany processes. The types of projects could include, for example, advising a Brazilian city on smart mobility solutions, facilitating a design thinking workshop with our staff and partners in Nairobi, developing smart city guidelines in China or contributing to a report on digital rights for local governments – and of course many more.

WUF10 Launch Smart Cities Flagship 10 Feb 2020

In the medium term, we will also be building full-time capacity in several locations, including at headquarters in Nairobi and respective regional offices. Straightaway, we are also looking to take on several full-time interns with digital and innovation skills in our headquarter location in Nairobi and project office in Barcelona. We are open to exploring various modalities in terms of work location, time commitment and renumeration.

If this sounds interesting to you, please send an email to Pontus Westerberg at UN-Habitat’s Innovation Unit, pontus.westerberg@un.org with a covering letter of max one page explaining why you think you would be a good fit for us, along with a cv of max two pages.

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