For UNITAC, smart cities need to be people-centered, where technology is applied carefully and strategically to leave no one behind. Our work is based on in-depth research, a deep understanding of urban challenges and detailed assessments of the needs of local communities.




In line with UNITAC's mission and vision, we are currently conducting the following projects. The areas covered pertain to mapping, digital inclusion and digital rights.


Using AI to Map Informal Settlements in eThekwini, South Africa


eThekwini has the largest number of informal settlements of any municipality in South Africa. It currently houses over 587 informal settlements encompassing 314,000 households, which comprises over a quarter of the city’s population. Continued urbanization and a dwindling supply of well-located, serviced land has resulted in a multitude of vulnerabilities experienced by its population.

In line with the city’s efforts to improve its data accessibility and management, UNITAC Hamburg is collaborating with the local government to develop an innovative and scalable approach for enhancing the land monitoring process, particularly focusing on better understanding informal settlements in the city.

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Experimenting with data for urban planning in Maceió, Brazil


To support the implementation of Observatory of Public Policies (OPP) in Brazil, The UNITAC team worked with the UN-Habitat regional office in to explore new ways of collecting and visualizing in the city of Maceió, State of Alagoas.

This project aimed to upgrade local capacity to produce and utilize data in planning processes and policymaking, as well as to give recommendations for the improvement of tools and methodologies for data collection and reporting designed specifically for the informal settlements.

With fast urbanization and the rising social demands brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, a functional data ecosystem will be important for approaching these obstacles and mitigating continuous patterns of under-representation and exclusion that affect residents in informal settlements – namely women and girls, children, elderly, disabled and other marginalized groups.

Download the full article about this project here



City Resilience Diagnostic Tool


Cities and communities are part of a larger system of cities. With the rapid pace of urbanization, risks of exposure to disaster and unforeseen shocks are steadily increasing. Cities are not static and continue to evolve; thus establishing constant assessments and analyses of urban settings and addressing factors determining resilience are investments towards fostering livable environments and positive change for all.

UNITAC Hamburg is supporting the digitalization of the City Resilience Diagnostics tool. It has been built to reduce risks and improve the resilience of urban systems by providing cities with information on potential shocks, vulnerabilities and stresses. While a methodology is already established, the tool requires an upscaling of operations to increase capabilities and to upscale to a much larger set of cities and communities.

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Urban Academy


A cooperation with the African Center for Cities at the University of Cape Town, this project is currently in its inception phase. The aim is to create a space for critical reflection and education for urban practitioners and researchers that will involve workshops, events, lecture series, doctoral programs and international conferences for a broad audience. The Urban academy will be a space to collect, discuss and share knowledge about the intersection between technology, space, and society.