Aihearkisto: Articles in English

Informal Sector and Waste Management in Rustenburg, South Africa

Informal sector forms a considerable part of economies and employment especially in less developed countries. Waste collection and recycling is one of the sectors that offers income for the officially unemployed and migrants in many African countries.

Authors: Maarit Virtanen, Antti Eerola and Päivi Lahti

Characteristics of informal economy in Africa

Although informal economy is often associated with small-scale business, it does actually provide a living for about 60 % of people working outside of agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, with transnational trading and remittance networks (Meagher 2017, 18, 21). According to the International Labour Organisation (2013, 3), the gross value added (GVA) contribution of informal enterprises in non-agricultural GVA is approximately 50 % in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa, the informal sector is much smaller than in less developed African countries, but it is still represents 16,7 % of total employment (Skinner 2016). In South Africa, about 41 % of those working in the informal sector are trading. This is followed by construction and community and social service. (Skinner 2016.)  Waste collection and recycling has been and still is a significant part of informal sector in many cities and municipalities.

The official unemployment rates are high in many African countries, and they do not include immigrants. The unemployed still need to earn some kind of livelihood, and informal economy is silently accepted in local communities. Illegal immigrants are a small but probably the most problematic part of informal sector, because they live in unauthorized settlements and on illegal businesses or crime. This may raise xenophobia and increase insecurity especially in the poorest townships. (Crush et al. 2015, 1.)

IMAGE 1. An example of informal economy services at a township (Skinner 2016).

Informal economy and waste management in Rustenburg

The informal sector plays a significant role in Rustenburg’s economy and is also a political issue. Municipal authorities strive to keep the informal sector under control and do not want it to grow. However, as both internal and external migration is growing fast, the municipality is not able to keep up with infrastructure and basic services for new arrivals. This results in an increasing informal labour force and unauthorized housing. In Rustenburg, the official unemployment rate is 26,4 % and youth unemployment rate is 34,7 %. Only 8,9 % of inhabitants have a higher education degree. (National Government of South Africa 2016.)

Waste management and household waste collection in Rustenburg is coordinated by the municipality’s Waste Unit. Residents leave their waste bags outside their houses on a certain date for the weekly collection. The waste is then collected and transported to the Waterval landfill site. (Rustenburg Local Municipality 2018.) The collection covers most parts of the city, but not the fast spreading informal settlements. In the poorest townships, the residents do not pay for the services, which increases the pressure on the municipality resources.

The Waterval landfill site was opened in 2016 with the aim of providing modern sorting and recycling services.  However, recycling has been slow to start and most of the reusable waste is still handled and collected by informal waste pickers working both on the streets and at the landfill site. (Virtanen 2017.) The informal pickers sort mainly plastics, metal, cardboard and glass from household waste. Pickers walk long distances collecting and transporting the waste to local buy-back centres. Work is hard, dirty, sometimes even dangerous, and cash compensation is small and varies a lot.  Buy-back centres do not register the collectors and it is difficult to estimate the impact of recycling as employment, but clearly it has an impact. The municipality is working on the registration of informal pickers, but the work has proved challenging. Most pickers are immigrants from neighbouring countries and they do not stay long in one place.

IMAGE 2. Waterval landfill site (Photo: Maarit Virtanen).

Currently informal sector is a significant part of waste management in Rustenburg. Formalising the whole chain of waste management could lead to a more efficient recycling and better working conditions, but implementation is not easy. The Rustenburg Local Municipality plays an important role in providing space and facilities for recycling activities, but it is struggling to provide services for the fast growing population.

About the project

Co-creating Sustainable Cities – Lahti (Finland), Rustenburg (South Africa), Ho (Ghana) Local Government Cooperation – project is a cross-sectorial development project implemented in 2017-2018. The project focus is on developing municipal services through circular economy and urban planning, emphasizing particularly waste management and sanitation through local pilots and initiatives.

The expected outcome of the project is to co-create viable businesses and generate capacity for more efficient municipal services by means of improved recycling, material recovery, nutrient recycling and sanitation coverage. Local stakeholders are encouraged to take action in turning waste into wealth. Co-creating Sustainable Cities project is coordinated by LAMK and funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

References

Crush, J., Skinner, C. & Chikanda, A. 2015. Informal Migrant Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Growth in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  Cape Town: Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP)/Bronwen Dachs Müller. [Cited 11.9.2018]. Available at: http://samponline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Acrobat68.pdf

International Labour Organisation. 2013. Measuring informality: A statistical manual on the informal sector and informal employment. Geneva: International Labour Office. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/stat/Publications/WCMS_222979/lang–en/index.htm

Meagher, K. 2017. Cannibalizing the informal economy: Frugal innovation and economic inclusion in Africa. The European Journal of Development Research. Vol. 30(1), 17-33. [Cited 25.8.2018]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-017-0113-4

National Government of South Africa. 2016. Rustenburg Local Municipality. [Cited 13.9.2018] Available at: https://municipalities.co.za/demographic/1191/rustenburg-local-municipality

Rustenburg Local Municipality. 2018. Services/Waste Management. [Cited 11.9.2018] Available at: https://www.rustenburg.gov.za/services/waste-management/

Skinner, C. 2016. Informal Sector Employment: Policy Reflections. REDI 3×3 Conference, 28 November 2016. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: https://www.africancentreforcities.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/REDI-input-Skinner-final.pdf

Virtanen, M. 2017. Co-creating Rustenburg Circular Economy Road Map in South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Cited 14.9.2018]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2017/12/08/co-creating-rustenburg-circular-economy-road-map-in-south-africa/

About the authors

Maarit Virtanen is the Project Manager for Co-creating Sustainable Cities project that promotes waste management and circular economy in Rustenburg. Päivi Lahti is a planner in the same project. Antti Eerola studies International Business at LAMK and did a two-month internship in Rustenburg.

Published 19.9.2018

Reference to this publication

Virtanen, M. & Eerola, A. & Lahti, P. 2018. Informal Sector and Waste Management in Rustenburg, South Africa. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/19/informal-sector-and-waste-management-in-rustenburg-south-africa

Biowaste Collection in Selected EU Countries

The European Commission has set stricter regulations on waste separation, including biowaste. By the end of 2023, biowaste must be completely separated or recycled at source. Separate biowaste collection and composting play an essential part in the bio-based circular economy. This article analyses current biowaste management trends in selected European regions.

Authors: David Huisman Dellago & Katerina Medkova

Introduction

The ever-increasing resource consumption is causing waste production to be growing each year. In an effort to achieve sustainable development, cities across the globe are pushed to improve the waste management. An important part of household waste comes in the form of biowaste. EU considers as biowaste every biodegradable waste in the form of food (households, canteens, enterprises etc.) and green waste (parks, gardens etc.) (Council Directive 2008/98/EC).

Biowaste comprises waste from biodegradable nature, meaning it can be broken down naturally. The degradation, however, has negative environmental impacts as it produces Greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as methane. Additionally, if not correctly handled, it can pollute the waterways through run-offs. Even though environmental issues are known, the reality is that still many cities are dumping high amounts of biowaste in landfills.

Biowaste collection is an essential part of the waste management systems. It is considered the first step in biowaste management and if carried out correctly, it can positively impact the posterior steps in the process. The importance of adequate collection systems is due to the need of separating biowaste from general waste.

Therefore, correctly managed biowaste not only has environmental benefits but opens a market to new possibilities. The treatment aims at converting the waste into useful by-products, such as fertilizers or energy (biofuels). Conversion is a sustainable method that is a part of the biological cycle of circular economy ( Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2017). Some examples of biowaste treatment include the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass from food waste into ethanol, anaerobic digestion to create biogas (methane) or liquid bio-oil creation through pyrolysis (Khanal & Surampalli 2010). Composting is an attractive method, which is proven to directly benefit households, as it can be practiced domestically by citizens (Mihai & Ingrao 2018).

Treating biowaste as a valuable resource for products and energy challenges many governments, including the EU. Through the creation of the waste package, the EU addressed four different directives. The main directive is the waste framework directive (WFD). WFD sets the guidelines on waste management for national policies. The landfill directive aims at reducing the amount of waste destined to landfills, including biowaste. The packaging waste and the electronic waste directives regulate the use of packaging and electronic waste respectively. (Council Directive 2008/98/EC)

In a new effort to improve waste management in the EU, the European Council reached a provisional agreement with the Commission (with the ambassadors’ approval) (European Council 2017). The provisional agreement is a result from the action plan following the 2015 Circular Economy Package (European Commission 2015). It aims at reinforcing the objectives of the waste package by updating current standards. In fact, it sets stricter regulations including extended producer responsibility and mandatory waste separation (including biowaste). In addition, the agreement sets that by the end of 2023 biowaste must be completely separated or recycled at source (European Council 2018). Finally, with the new agreement, countries are expected to comply with higher standards. The situation of biowaste management in the EU is of special interest. This article analyses the biowaste management trends throughout different European regions, in order to understand how it works.

Research

Biowaste management practices are collected through the implementation process of two Interreg Europe projects, BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD, due to their common aim at promoting bio-based circular economy and moving towards a sustainable and inclusive growth. Both projects desire to promote biowaste and foodwaste as a valuable resource for an efficient and environmentally friendly economy.

BIOREGIO focuses on regional circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams. The project boosts the bio-based circular economy through a transfer of expertise about best available technologies and cooperation models, such as ecosystems and networks. The project runs from 2017 to 2021 and involves eight partners from six European regions. (Interreg Europe 2017a)

ECOWASTE4FOOD project supports eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promotes a better resource efficient economy. The project brings together seven local and regional authorities throughout Europe to address the crucial issue of food waste. The project runs from 2017 to 2020. (Interreg Europe 2017b)

Besides the project partners, both aforementioned projects actively involve groups of local stakeholders in the identification of local good practices, recognition of good practices from other EU regions, and their selection and implementation in the regional action plans. At the same time, by increased knowledge gained during the project, regions will be better equipped to improve their own policy instruments, in particular by funding new projects, improving the management of the instruments and influencing the strategic focus of the instruments.

Specifically, questionnaires were distributed in the framework of the BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD projects in the participants regions. Those include regions in Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK (Figure 1).

Questionnaires were distributed to 11 regions by emails and completed electronically. To avoid any misunderstandings, the researcher had a close monitor of the procedure. All data were subjected to quality control and measurements not satisfying the requirements were rejected. Studied countries were responsible for providing the most relevant and up-to-date information based on their regional trends.

The questionnaire was distributed during March-April 2018. The questionnaire involved a series of questions based on biowaste collection, processing and future policies. However, only biowaste data will be presented in this article. A qualitative assessment was carried out at the collected data.

Figure 1. The studied regions

Results

The survey proves existence of different biowaste management services and operations among the European regions. An overview of the results can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Biowaste Collection in select EU countries

The majority of the regions separately collect biowaste. Sud Muntenia (Romania), on the other hand, does not collect it separately.

The percentage of biowaste separately collected from the total amount of bio-waste produced in a region varies significantly. In fact, regional differences are observed even within the same nations. For example, Finland’s Päijät-Häme region separately collects about 50% biowaste from the total biowaste in contrast with 24% in the South Ostrobothnia region. In Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), Pays de la Loire (France), and Central Macedonia (Greece), only 5% of biowaste is separately collected from the total biowaste production. Other regions, like Catalonia (Spain) and Ferrara (Italy), operate between 33 and 48%. The results are based on both garden waste and foodwaste. However, for instance, in the city of Devon, UK, the majority of the biowaste separated (65%) includes garden waste (39%). Regarding Castilla- la Mancha, the data collected constitutes from garden waste only.

In every separate collection service, except in Greece, households are responsible for the biowaste separation. In addition, enterprises and food industry participate to the biowaste management in Finland, Spain, France, UK and Italy. Enterprises include businesses and institutions such as education centres, government offices, businesses and zoos. Currently, Greece focuses only on enterprises as the main responsible for separating biowaste, however, responsibility of municipalities has been piloted.

The concern of the EU for reduction of food waste ending up in landfills is linked to the concern of waste packaging as expressed in the recent waste management agreement (European Council, 2018). According to the questionnaire, the waste generator (supermarkets, consumers, etc.) usually removes food packaging. However, in the regions of Central Macedonia and Pays de la Loire, no food packaging rule is applied upon producers before its disposal. Nonetheless, it is important to mention that in France, further treatment regarding food packaging is voluntary on the waste collector. On the other hand, Finnish regions and Devon (UK), implement an extensive food packaging management system, where consumers and industries are responsible for the separation. Furthermore, processing plants are capable of removing the packaging on site (e.g. anaerobic digestion plants have front-end technology to remove plastic packaging).

In the majority of the regions who separately collect biowaste, household biowaste is defined as a pure household (domestic) and biowaste produced in small businesses (cafeterias, schools, offices etc.). Only Finnish and Spanish regions consider additionally green/garden waste as household biowaste. In the UK, other types of waste, such as cooking oil, fall under the biowaste umbrella for that region.

Household biowaste is collected for further treatment, in either separate (bin) collection or in collective (shared bin) collection, except for the Spanish and French regions. Separate collection is mainly collected twice a week, although in South Ostrobothnia this is done every week.

An interesting method of biowaste handling, which is linked to household waste management, is self-composting. This method is used on a smaller scale in comparison to separate bin collection. Households in Devon, Pays de la Loire, Catalonia and Ferrara do not exceed 10%. This is a significantly small amount if compared with Päijät-Häme 62% private composting rate. In Finland, the limitations are seen in winter, when the temperatures can freeze the compost. Halfway, we can find Nitra’s 20% separation rate. Self-composting is also implemented in several municipalities in the Region of Central Macedonia but without recording a number of users.

Overall, biowaste collection services are charged in two different ways: to the Municipal authority as a tax or directly to the waste management company in the form of a private contribution. Finnish, Italian and Polish regions opt for the latter, making biowaste collection a private business, which is managed by the collection companies. In Romania, waste fees are collected either by local authorities or by private companies. The rest of the European regions tax the families for the collection services, acting as a mediator between the waste management companies and the waste producers. In France, there is a possibility of delegation where the municipal authorities give the responsibility to waste management companies directly and/or associations (recycling companies). In Slovakia, there are two methods taking place. The waste collection is financed according to the producer status. This means local domestic waste is financed by a municipal tax whilst business generated biowaste is managed by private contributions to a waste transportation company.

According to the study, there is a positive change envisioned for the future. In Castilla-La Mancha, a recent regional proposal was approved making biowaste separation mandatory for the food industry, restaurants, enterprises and households. It will be implemented in late 2018 and the collection method will be decided by each council.

Furthermore, the recent regional law implemented in January 2018 in the region of Wielkopolska, is still progressively being implemented in the remaining municipalities. This means that for now only, the city of Poznan is implementing mandatory biowaste separation and the rest of the municipalities are to follow in the upcoming years. Those are indeed, promising news for the biowaste collection situation in the European Union.

Conclusions and discussion

To conclude, it is important to point out the main trends regarding waste management in the selected European regions. Major disparity has been found in biowaste separation from general waste, as some regions such as Päijät-Häme, Devon or Ferrara are recovering 50% or more of their biowaste, whilst others are struggling to meet a 1% separation rate. Differences between regions in the same territory have been found. For example, in Spain, Catalonia separates 32% more than Castilla-La Mancha (0.9%) or in Finland, Päijät-Häme separates double the rate of South Ostrobothnia. Regarding Spain, Catalonia is one the pioneering regions in the implementation of household biowaste collection. As a result, other regions nationwide are found to be behind in that aspect but are working on improving their collection systems. Thus, Catalonia can be considered an exception within the country.

Out of all the countries, Romania does not collect nor separate biowaste as it ends in the landfills contributing to the country’s waste management concerns. Whilst other regions, such as, Castilla-La Mancha do not separately collect biowaste but rather separate later on in waste management centres.

In the region of the Pays de la Loire, France, composting is the main method of handling biowaste and a separate collection exists for garden waste only. The rest of the regions are separately collecting biowaste through a variety of methods. Mainly it includes the use of private containers for single families or common containers that are shared among different households/businesses. Composting is also practised in combination with this method; however, the main limitations include freezing winter conditions (Finland) or lack of infrastructure (Poland).

Biowaste is mainly collected once a week (Finland, Poland, UK), once in two weeks (Finland, Slovakia) or twice a week (Italy). Furthermore, in Spain, biowaste is collected up to 4 times a week during the hotter summer periods.

The topic of the study was actual and had a direct connection to the goals of both Interreg Europe projects: BIOREGIO and ECOWASTE4FOOD. The study contributed to a better overall understanding of the disunited biowaste terminology, various collection systems and rates, local challenges, and preferences in the selected regions. Identification and sharing of good practices related to biowaste and foodwaste may considerably accelerate the achievement of completely separated or recycled biowaste at source as required by the European Council. Findings are also useful for future research and development purposes of waste management systems.

 Acknowledgments

The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Interreg Europe Programme for the funding of the projects “BIOREGIO – circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams” and ”ECOWASTE4FOOD – Supporting Eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promote a better resource efficient economy ”.

Also, we would like to thank the local stakeholders, partners and all the participants who helped with data collection.

References

Council Directive 2008/98/EC of 19 November 1992 on waste and repealing certain Directives. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32008L0098&from=EN

Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2017. Circular Economy.  [Cited 23 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/interactive-diagram

European Commission. 2015. CE Package. [Cited 6 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/jobs-growth-and-investment/towards-circular-economy_en

European Council. 2017. Council and Parliament reach provisional agreement on new EU waste rules. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/12/18/council-and-parliament-reach-provisional-agreement-on-new-eu-waste-rules/

European Council. 2018. EU ambassadors approve new rules on waste management and recycling. [Cited 21 Mar 2018]. Available at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2018/02/23/eu-ambassadors-approve-new-rules-on-waste-management-and-recycling/

Interreg Europe. 2017a. BIOREGIO – Regional circular economy models and best available technologies for biological streams. [Cited 21 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/bioregio

Interreg Europe. 2017b. ECOWASTE4FOOD – Supporting eco-innovation to reduce food waste and promote a better resource efficient economy. [Online]. [Cited 21 Jan 2018]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/ecowaste4food/

Khanal, S. K. & Surampalli, R. Y. 2010. Bioenergy and Biofuel from Biowastes and Biomass. s.l.:American Society of Civil Engineers.

Mihai, F.-C. & Ingrao, C. 2018. Assessment of biowaste losses through unsound waste management practices in rural areas and the role of home composting. Journal of Cleaner Production. Vol 172, 1631-1638.

Authors

David Huisman Dellago is an Environmental Science student from Avans UAS (The Netherlands). He is an intern for the BIOREGIO project at LAMK.

Katerina Medkova works as a coordinator at LAMK. She is the BIOREGIO project Communication Manager.

Illustration: https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-lemon-peels-1405667/ (CC0)

Published 13.9.2018

Reference to this article

Huisman Dellago, D. & Medkova, K. 2018. Biowaste Collection in Selected EU Countries. LAMK RDI Journal. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/13/biowaste-collection-in-selected-eu-countries/

LAMK students participate in improving sanitation in Ho, Ghana

The lack of sanitation services is a significant problem in Ghana and it goes hand in hand with poverty. As a part of Co-creating Sustainable Cities project, 55 Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs) were built in 14 different communities in Ho at spring 2018. Four students from Lahti University of Applied Sciences did their three-month-internship in Ho monitoring and coordinating the construction.

Authors: Tiia Permanto and Maarit Virtanen

Water and sanitation situation in Ghana

According to UNICEF Ghana (2018), only 15% of Ghanaians have access to improved sanitation and 4000 children die each year of diarrhoea. People are practicing open defecation widely. In 2015, open defecation percent in Ghana was 31% in rural areas and 8% in urban areas. In Volta region, where Ho Municipality is located, open defecation percent is about 25% (WHO and UNICEF 2018). Access to safe water and improved sanitation both in rural and urban areas are priorities in improving health.

In Ho, the municipality is implementing rural and urban sanitation programs (Ho Local Municipality 2016). In rural areas, the officials are educating communities to help them achieve ODF-status (Open Defecation Free). The construction of toilets is hindered mainly by poverty and the lack of awareness on the importance of sanitation, but also the soil makes constructing traditional pit toilets difficult in many communities. In some communities, the ground is too hard for digging, while in others, it is very soft and in some, the groundwater level is very high.

In a country, where water is scarce and its supply uncertain, Water Closets (WCs) are a questionable and unsustainable solution. The high prices of water and septic tank emptying services make the use of these toilets expensive. In addition, there are few facilities for handling wastewater. In Volta region, there are no wastewater treatment plants, which means that septic tanks are emptied to the ground or concrete drains leading to streams and rivers.

FIGURE 1. Wastewater and sludge ends up on fields and rivers. (Photo: Tiia Permanto)

UDDT solves many problems

Dry toilets have several benefits over pit toilets or WCs. In a UDDT, urine is diverted to a separate container and the faeces go into the composting vault. There are two composting vaults for each toilet, so that the composting takes place in one vault, while the other one is used. This makes the UDDT hygienic and safe to use. Waterproof vaults make sure that soil and groundwater are not polluted unlike with pit toilets. UDDTs do not smell, when used correctly with sawdust or other locally available composting materials. Water is required only during the construction phase. What is also essential in rural areas is that both the urine and compost can be used as fertilisers. Chemical fertilisers are expensive and difficult to purchase, which contributes to low yields in Ghana.

Construction work in practice

The design of household UDDTs built in spring 2018 was modified from previously constructed school UDDT’s and a few existing examples of household UDDTs in Ho. The original assignment of LAMK students was to monitor and report the construction process at communities. However, the Ghanaian timetables and working practices do not always match the Finnish aims, and the students ended up taking a more active role in the construction than originally planned. They did, for example, the procurement for materials from local markets and shops. When the actual construction began, things started moving quicker and more smoothly. Altogether 12 artisans built the toilets working in pairs in the communities. Some of them had previous experience of building UDDTs and all of them were trained by the project in 2017. In addition to the trained builders, local artisans were encouraged to participate in the construction, so that they can continue the work themselves. Pilot community households were also trained on how to use the UDDTs and fertilisers produced.

Toilets were constructed in two phases. In the first phase, there were 7 communities and 31 toilets and in the second phase, 6 communities and 23 toilets. One of the construction challenges turned out to be the lack of budget. The original plan was to build 80 toilets but the increases in construction material prices and some other unexpected costs made this impossible. The project funding for UDDTs covers constructing the base with all the piping and the urine container. The upper structure is under beneficiaries’ own responsibility. They can use locally available materials like bamboo and leaves for roof, walls and door.

FIGURE 2. A household UDDT under construction (Photo: Tiia Permanto)

The students visited the communities almost daily during the construction, delivering materials and drinking water for the artisans and checking that they had all materials needed. The students also informed the next communities that work will start soon and made sure that the necessary materials like stones, sand and water were available. Despite the variety of schedules, cooperation with Ho Municipality was rewarding and gave important skills and experiences to students. Cooperation with artisans and communities went smoothly and it was clear to see, how important these toilets are for households. The municipal officials continue the work in Ho by monitoring the use of UDDTs and encouraging more households to take up sustainable sanitation.

References

Ho Local Municipality. 2016. Ho Municipal Assembly Municipal Environmental Sanitation Action Plan: 2016 Update.

UNICEF Ghana. 2018. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. [Cited 31 August 2018].  Available at: https://www.unicef.org/ghana/wes.html

WHO and UNICEF. 2018. WASH data. [Cited 23 August 2018]. Available at: https://washdata.org/data

About the authors

Tiia Permanto is one of LAMK students who did their internship in Ghana. Maarit Virtanen is a RDI Specialist and Project Manager for Co-creating Sustainable Cities project. The project is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Published 3.9.2018

Illustration: https://pixabay.com/en/door-old-wooden-door-heart-toilet-516731/ (CC0)

Reference to this publication

Permanto, T. & Virtanen, M. 2018. LAMK students participate in improving sanitation in Ho, Ghana. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/09/03/lamk-students-participate-in-improving-sanitation-in-ho-ghana

Making the game better at Nordic Game Conference in Malmö

Nordic Game Conference in Malmö has grown to be the most significant game industry professionals gathering in Europe during its 15 years. In 2018 over 2000 game industry professionals and students enjoyed presentations by over 178 speakers at Nordic Game 2018 (NG18). This year’s NG18 had an Impact track, which caught the eye of GameChangers –project as the sessions promised to make us think more deeply about the impact of the games and how we create them has on the world. The track was put together by Kate Edwards and Tsahi Liberman, who are both active advocates for diversity and inclusiveness in the games industry. The Impact track had eight sessions including a workshop and a seminar during the three conference days. The Impact track was a welcome addition to the conference program and its influence potential was huge. In this article, we will share some ideas and insights the Impact track sessions but also commenting on a few other talks about diversity.

Authors: Ria Gynther & Essi Prykäri

Game industry and stereotypes

The game industry has a reputation for being bro-club; the reputation is unfortunately not entirely unfound. According to International Game Developers Association (IGDA) video game industry is still predominated by young, heterosexual, white males (Gosse, Legault, O’Meara & Weststar 2016, 6-10, 38). IGDAs international survey data indicates that 74% of game developers are men, 21% are women and 5% identified themselves as transgender or other (Weststar, O’Meara & Legault 2017, 11).

Carolyn Petit and Anita Sarkeesian are spokespersons of inclusive and representative media landscape and they both work with Feminist Frequency, a not-for-profit educational organization. They held a workshop to give game designers concrete tools for creating compelling and diverse characters in their games. Workshop started with analyzing characters from well-known games. As stated earlier, most of game designers are young, white and men, this is also true when we take a closer look on most famous video game characters for example Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Link from the Zelda series.

During the workshop, the participants were encouraged to think about diversity from different angles, not just gender and race, but also about sexual orientation, cultural background, able-bodied vs. disability and age. Carolyn and Anita also challenged the participants to think about how these different qualities are portrayed, for example: is the Asian person a math genius in the game, do the women have agency or are they just tropes, are all heroes young and male. Does the portrayal or the characters enforce stereotypes or try to change them?

PICTURE 1. Carolyn Petit and Anita Sarkeesian talking about positive character examples at Nordic Game 2018.

Luckily, the industry has woken up to the issue and there are several initiatives to help diversify the industry and there are more and more playable female characters for example Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, Ellie from Last of Us II and Jesse from Control.

The Path to Impact

Kate Edwards gave a very empowering talk about making a change in the games industry. Game industry, particular in the US, is at the moment unappreciated. For example, 40% of the US citizens believe that games are linked to violent crime in US and 60% believe that games are mostly played by men. Misconceptions about the people working within the industry include statements such as ”they are people who can’t get a real job” and ”they are only motivated by money”. These types of stigmas are hard to break and are one factor that prevents game industry to grow to be more inclusive.

In the light of recent studies, game industry itself is also filled with cultural norms, biases and distorted gender beliefs towards women in video game industry. Due to these, women are marginalized even more by being categorized only to certain roles, instead of seeing the full potential or expertise behind their gender (Harvey & Shepherd 2017, 494; Styhre et al.2016, 1-2.)

Kate Edwards addressed similar issues in her sessions, but also reminded us that they can be easily overcome. She encouraged us all to become Creator-Advocates, and speak for diversity. We cannot change the world alone, but we can make a small change for the better.

PICTURE 2. Kate Edwards talking about becoming a Creator-Advocate.

Luckily strong speeches advocating the need and the power of diversity we’re also given outside the Impact track.  Robin Hunicke’s Experimental Game Design – the next five years was one of the most influential speeches during the conference and the only one of the track that was held in main stage. Another powerful talk on the main stage was Angie Smets’s talk Horizon Zero Dawn – a studio’s perspective, which also served as a good reminder that successful games can also have female protagonists. Both sessions are available on Nordic Game’s YouTube channel.

Diversity and women in and behind the games were not absent from the social events at the conference. The gala dinner was followed by the joyful Marioke [karaoke songs rewritten about video games and game development] where the disco hit It’s raining men turned into an ironic take on men explaining first person shooter games to female players. Explaining men, Hallelujah! Explaining men!

Afterthoughts

Games are powerful and unique medium; they are both products of culture as well as create culture (Deuze et al. 2007, 345). This is one of the main reasons why tracks like these are important. Idea behind the NG18 Impact track was to encourage games industry professionals to think deeply about the impact their games have on our world, and how the way games are made contribute to this. We believe this was achieved, but in a much smaller scale than what could have been possible. Only one of the tracks speeches was presented on the main stage and in some cases the amount of interested participants exceeded the capacity of the chosen seminar rooms. Also, most of the participants seemed already interested on these subjects or represent the minorities in question. Unfortunately, the lack of stereotypical game designers was evident, these are the groups that would benefit the most from the eye opening talks and workshops such as presented within this track.

It is crucial to show that women, and other minorities, can be and are an important part of the games industry, that it is not just a ”bro-club”. Diversity and inclusiveness create better teams, give people new ideas and widen horizons. This is something we’re also aiming to do in the GameChangers – Women in the Game Industry project.  Start making a change!

References

Deuze, M., Martin, C. & Allen, C. 2007. The Professional Identity of Gameworkers. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. [Electronic journal]. Vol. 13(4), 335-353. [Cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856507081947

Gosse, C., Legault, M-J., O’Meara, V. & Weststar, J. 2016. Diversity in the Game Industry Report.  [Online document]. Toronto: IGDA : Developer Satisfaction Survey Resources. [Cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available at: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.igda.org/resource/collection/CB31CE86-F8EE-4AE3-B46A-148490336605/IGDA_DSS14-15_DiversityReport_Aug2016_Final.pdf

Harvey, A. & Shepherd, T. 2017. When passion isn’t enough: gender, affect and credibility in digital games design. International Journal of Cultural Studies. [Electronic journal]. Vol 20 (5), 492 – 508. [Cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877916636140

Styhre, A., Remneland-Wikhamn, B., Szczepanska, A-M. & Ljungberg, J. 2016. Masculine domination and gender subtexts: The role of female professionals in the renewal of the Swedish video game industry. Culture and Organization. [Electronic journal]. Vol 24(3), 244-261. [Cited 10 Jun 2018].  Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14759551.2015.1131689 

Weststar, J., O’Meara, V. & Legault, M-J. 2017. Developer Satisfaction Survey 2017. [Online document]. Toronto: IGDA. [Cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available at: https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.igda.org/resource/resmgr/2017_DSS_/!IGDA_DSS_2017_SummaryReport.pdf

About the authors

Ria Gynther works as a project coordinator on the GameChangers –project at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and is a student in the Internet and Game studies master’s program at University of Tampere.

Essi Prykäri works part-time as a project advisor on the GameChangers –project at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. She is a keen gamer and a feminist.

Pictures: Essi Prykäri

Published 27.6.2018

Reference to this publication

Gynther, R. & Prykäri, E. 2018. Making the game better at Nordic Game Conference in Malmö. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/06/27/making-the-game-better-at-nordic-game-conference-in-malmo

 

Artificial intelligence should not be unleashed

Like shareholders and portfolio managers, we all make decisions about smaller or bigger investments. Every decision of spending matters somewhere. Today, robo-advisers help decision-making. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) accelerates exponentially, and AI penetrates to almost every industry. At the same time, we are getting more and more conscious about the sustainability and responsibility of our spending. This article aims to discuss the importance of responsibility in investment decisions made by algorithms.

Authors: Marjut Karelberg and Sirpa Varajärvi

Responsibility of investments

According to Finsif (2018), responsible investment means involving ESG matters (Environment, Social and Governance) in investment activities to improve the portfolio’s return and risk profile. There is no one or only way of responsible investment. Each investor chooses tools appropriate to his own investment strategy. An investor can use ESG matters from different approaches. Responsible investment concerns all asset types.

According to Virtanen (2016), in Buddhism, consciousness is the key for an individual to become perfect in morality and in wisdom. From the point of view of cognitive neuroscience, consciousness is understood as a brain-induced phenomenon. So far, it has not been possible to explain how this is happening. AI can possess morality and may be capable to ethical reasoning. The ability of AI to engage in moral activity depends on the definition of a moral actor. Making ethical decisions is still a challenge. Human free will and free will [generally] are two different concepts. Implementation of free will to AI is difficult. (Virtanen 2016.) Artificial intelligence does not think like people, it does not have morality – it is unable to take care of others, which is essential in ethics and humankind (Himma 2009).

Unpredictable AI, unpredictable risks

According to Heinäsmäki (2015), digitalization means the integration of digital technology into all life and activities. When algorithms are programmed to learn independently, it takes them further away from human control, towards singularity as computers develop their own intelligence – “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all” (Hawking et al.  2014). Independent algorithms will dominate digitalization in the future. Because algorithms are inhuman, they cause risks we cannot even imagine – therefore we should start to develop responsible digitality and responsible algorithms. ESG, i.e. environmental, social and governmental issues in financing, are the starting point of responsible thinking. But, ESG is just an abbreviation of a concept that could be a key for a better investment future.

Algorithms have a very effective performance. Decisions of investments are to be integrated to AI, which is the only way to survive with future demands of Big Data processing. Despite all the benefits, that algorithms can offer, AI is a dog that should not be unleashed. It will obey, if its creator knows the length of the leash that can be given for it. The creators and developers of AI are in a key position in determining how we people – who think can master everything – will succeed and survive with the future decisions made by AI. Through these key groups, we achieve the concept and the ideas of ESG. It is important to realize, what kind of possibilities AI can offer in reaching responsible thinking, and how AI can make a positive impact on decision-making in the future investing activities.

One Earth to live

We need to preserve and maintain the viability of the Earth. There would not be any problems with unpredictable AI, if humans would think about preserving the mankind and the whole diversity of the nature, instead of gaining individual profit.

The climate viability length is a riddle we cannot ignore. By the right choices, we can affect to it, at least we can reduce the destructive and too risky development of singularity that sooner leads to worse disaster. We may not have the next 50-100 years this kind of living conditions on Earth, as we have now. The destroying of the planet causes huge challenges for those who decide about the allocation of the resources – the targets of investments. We can count the life expectancy of Earth, but can we live with the results that offer just desolation? We have only one Earth to live.

The idea of learning machines is not new, but still it is very much alive. We cannot control AI, if we do not know the route of its development. AI’s developers know the risks of singularity. Nowadays, the AI is at a stage where it begins to turn more human-independent than ever before. Neural networks and machine learning makes AI more and more human-independent, and algorithms are already the tools of today’s economic actions. How do we make safe decisions of future investments? At some level, it is going to be the AI, who decides future investment targets, because we have given it a role in the investment world – only during a few last years, because the amount of data has exponentially increased.

Artificial investors create our future despite the challenges of insecurity

Today’s media offers a lot of responsibility issues and ESG-information as well as AI knowledge. Also, they offer estimations how algorithms are going to develop in the future. The literal sources along with the media, are not offering much information or prognosis about responsible investments or investment’s development approximately until 10-30 years. The responsibility aspect of investment decisions made by algorithms was examined in a recently published master’s thesis written by Marjut Karelberg (2018). The study included a survey among investment and AI experts. The main results of the survey were that AI will have more and more influence in the future in making investment decisions. However, many AI-developers are not aware of ESG, which is an alarming signal. The future AI-developers have a lot of power for the future of mankind – they develop the decision-making devices. They create the future digital brains. More resources for educating AI developers to understand ESG matters are needed. They need better competence about responsible thinking – sustainability and ethics. In this situation, Karelberg (2018) recommends – if we want responsibility to be the major competitive factor in the future investment decision-making – that, the developing of AI is transparent and controlled, and, that it’s resourced generously enough.

References

Finsif. 2018. Mitä vastuullinen sijoittaminen tarkoittaa? Finsif. [Cited 8 Feb 2018]. Available at: https://www.finsif.fi/mita-se-on

Hawking, S., Russell, S., Tegmark, M. & Wilczek, F. 2014. Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence – but are we taking AI seriously enough? The Independent. [Electronic newspaper]. 1 May 2014. [Cited 10 May 2018]. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stephen-hawking-transcendence-looks-at-the-implications-of-artificial-intelligence-but-are-we-taking-9313474.html

Heinäsmäki, M. 2015. Digitalisaation vaikutus suomalaisten hyvinvointiin. Digitalist. 25 May 2015. [Cited 5 Nov 2017]. Available at: https://digitalist.global/talks/digitalisaation-vaikutus-suomalaisten-hyvinvointiin/

Himma, K. E. 2009. Artificial agency, consciousness, and the criteria for moral agency: what properties must an artificial agent have to be a moral agent? Ethics and Information Technology. [Electronic  journal]. Vol. 11(1), 19–29. [Cited 10 Jun 2018]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-008-9167-5

Karelberg, M. 2018. The future of responsible investments in the context of algorithm-based decisions. [Online document]. Master’s Thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Lahti. [Cited 8 Jun 2018]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-201805178710

Virtanen, E-M. 2016. Robottien tietoisuus, moraali ja vapaa tahto? Theravāda-buddhalainen näkökulma. [Online document]. Master’s Thesis. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Systematic Theology. Helsinki. [Cited 8 Jun 2018]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201610122845

About the authors

Marjut Karelberg (karelbergm@gmail.com) is an independent observer and has graduated from LAMK Master School. She considers responsibility a significant issue to explore – especially, its development in the current investment environment where the increasing and constant use of artificial intelligence reduces the ability to prognosticate the future.

Sirpa Varajärvi works as a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management, Lahti University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: https://pixabay.com/fi/teko%C3%A4ly-teknologia-futuristinen-3262753/ (CC0)

Published 21.6.2018

Reference to this publication

Karelberg, M. & Varajärvi, S. 2018. Artificial intelligence should not be unleashed. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/06/21/artificial-intelligence-should-not-be-unleashed