Using Technology to Transform Urban Planning in São Paulo
|CITIES ALLIANCE IN ACTION
|Technology that Transformed Urban Planning in São Paulo: HABISP
Ranked among the world’s largest – and wealthiest – cities, São Paulo has faced a housing crisis for decades. With 26 per cent of its 11 million residents living in precarious and informal settlements, the city’s major challenges include slum upgrading, reducing vulnerability to natural hazards, regularising land tenure and providing decent accommodation to every paulistano.
In 2001, the City of São Paulo Department of Housing and Urban Development (SEHAB) embarked on a new and comprehensive urban development strategy that would benefit the city’s poorest residents.
In 2004, SEHAB was in the midst of implementing the Bairro Legal Technical Assistance Project in São Paulo, with the support of the Cities Alliance, when it embarked on its next major project: an initiative to develop strategies for sustainable planning, financing and implementing the housing policy. This initiative, which was also supported by the Cities Alliance, included a housing information system, later named HABISP.
The Making of HABISP
In 2005, SEHAB contracted an information technology team to build HABISP as a user-friendly system that municipal technical staff could access and input data themselves, on a daily basis, if required.
Technology that is Truly Transformative
With HABISP, São Paulo’s decision makers now have access to updated and comprehensive information on housing and other socio-economic conditions of the urban poor. Previous record-keeping instruments used by SEHAB had produced considerable amounts of data that was fragmented and stored in multiple databases. HABISP – an easy-to-use information system based on standardised indicators – makes it easier to analyse and compare different urban programmes. Municipal staff are able to constantly monitor and review their working methods and make judicious decisions about activities based on the latest statistics.
Lessons Learned from the HABISP Success Story
HABISP’s use of scientific data for strategic urban planning is truly innovative. Another Brazilian city, São Bernardo do Campo, has developed its own management system along the lines of HABISP. In 2008, São Paulo, with the support of SEHAB and the Cities Alliance, organised a successful south-south knowledge exchange on slum upgrading for representatives of six large cities including Cairo, Manila, Lagos, Ekurhuleni and Mumbai. However, dissemination efforts need to be strengthened further for HABISP to gain prominence in global urban planning discourse and practice.