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In the slums of Kampala, the phrase “survival for the fittest” takes on a whole new meaning: reflections from a recent field trip studying electricity access in Nakulabye slum, Kampala, Uganda

penlope.yaguma.2031 October 2022

By Penlope Yaguma

Penlope Yaguma is a 3rd year PhD student of Energy and Development Policy at the UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP) and the UCL Engineering for International Development Centre (EfID). Her broad research interests are on electricity access in slums and informal settlements in African cities, with a specific focus on Uganda’s cities. Penlope’s work is inspired by her own experiences of growing up and living in Uganda, and she hopes to bring her formal training in electrical engineering and sustainable energy systems to understanding and creating solutions for the inequalities and injustices in service delivery and infrastructure provision in African cities.

Everyone looks down on us because we live in the ghetto, but deep down they know that these ghettos are the heartbeat of Kampala.

Despite slums’ close proximity to grid infrastructure or sometimes literally under the grid, accessing electricity in Kampala’s slums remains precarious, costly or downright unsafe

How it all began: In September 2022, I set out to do the fieldwork and field data collection for my PhD research in Nakulabye slum, one of over 60 slum settlements in Uganda’s capital Kampala. The plan was to conduct household surveys, hold focus group discussions in the settlement and interview key stakeholders on all matters electricity access specifically and access to social services and infrastructure more broadly. I was very fortunate to work with a passionate field team of geography students from Makerere University’s Urban Action Lab and the Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovation, and community guides who were residents of the settlement. We also received overwhelming support and assistance from the local council leaders (LC1s) of all nine administrative villages/zones that make up Nakulabye settlement. Many generously shared their experiences of securing social services for their jurisdictions and improving livelihoods for community members, families, and businesses. The devastating effects of Covid-19 and increasing cost of living are still being felt in Nakulabye, forcing some to close their businesses or pack up their families and move back to the village. Following two settlement walks, training and piloting the survey questionnaire, the actual data collection began – lasting about 2 weeks in total. In this blog post, I reflect upon this fieldwork exercise and write about my experiences and key observations.

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PhD Episode III: The Rise of Engineering Advice

laurent.liote.1910 October 2022

Laurent Liote is a fourth year PhD student at UCL STEaPP. Follow him on LinkedIn (Laurent Liote), Twitter (@LaurentLiote) or ping him an email (laurent.liote.19@ucl.ac.uk).

Hi there, yes, it’s still me… and yes, I’m still working on my PhD! It’s been a few months since the last update so I figured I’d let you all know that, as promised, I’m working on the final part of my PhD trilogy (Episodes I and II can be found here and here, respectively). The overarching story arch, if you’ve missed the two previous instalments, is about understanding how engineering advice is deployed in energy policy practice. This post picks up where we left off, outlining what I’ve been up to since January and where I’m going next.

PhD Episode Three image in the style of Star Wars

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Carbon dilemma: Indonesia’s experience

Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli25 August 2022

The transition from fossil fuel-based to renewable energy has become one of the most important global issues at least in the past two decades. In Indonesia, however, incentives for renewable energy have decreased and in contrast, ones for fossil fuels have increased (Kompas, 22/6).

The alleged increase in this unsustainable incentive is encapsulated in a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), titled Indonesia’s Energy Support Measures: An inventory of incentives impacting the energy transition, published this June.

During 2016-2020, the report states, that subsidies and compensation for fossil fuels in Indonesia reached 1,153 trillion Rupiah or around 65 billion Pounds. This number dwarfs incentives for other energy sources, for instance, 150 trillion Rupiah for renewable energy sources and 19 trillion Rupiah for electric vehicles and batteries.

Such gigantic spending indicates, unfortunately, that Indonesia is moving away from its commitment to building a low-carbon economy. At the Conference of the Parties (COP) 2009 and 2016, Indonesia committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% (with its own efforts) or by 41% (if receiving international assistance) by 2030.

Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash

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Three shifts for improving the governance of emerging technologies

Basil Mahfouz11 June 2022

Without a coordinated global response, emerging technologies could quickly transform our world into a dystopia. By 2050, the lack of climate action may push mankind towards experimenting with planetary systems via geoengineering, lethal autonomous weapon systems could be deciding who lives and who doesn’t, while neuro-technologies will challenge the definition of what it means to be human.

To understand how to manage the societal impact of these technologies, on 16 May 2022, I joined 29 other specialists representing 21 countries at the Science Diplomacy Week Immersion Programme, a forum co-organised by the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

The discussions highlighted that effectively governing frontier technologies requires three fundamental shifts across international science diplomacy: (1) adopting a proactive approach towards solving challenges, (2) leveraging cutting-edge computational tools, and (3) systemically scaling access to scientific knowledge.

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First RespondXR: Digital vulnerability of immersive training for first responders

Niamh F Healy16 February 2022

For the past few months, I have had the pleasure of working as a research assistant on the First Respond XR project. The pilot study, led by Dr Leonie Tanczer, Lecturer in International Security and Emerging Technologies at UCL STEaPP, has been funded by the SPRITE Hub and explores the digital vulnerabilities associated with using Extended Reality (XR) to train police officers in the UK.

XR is an umbrella term used in reference to different types of virtual reality technology: immersive, three-dimensional, computer-generated environments. Popular examples of XR include Oculus Rift, a fully-immersive VR gaming headset, or Pokémon Go, which superimposes Pokémon onto the user’s environment via their smartphone cameras, an example of augmented reality (AR).

As the application areas of this technology are manifold, our four-month-long pilot study (December 2021 – March 2022) has the ambition to map the social, ethical, technical, and legal risks associated with the use of XR technology in the police training context. Our team (Dr Leonie Tanczer, Professor David McIlhatton, Professor Jill Marshall, Dr Mark McGill, Dr Lena Podoletz, Marina Heilbrunn and Niamh Healy) is set together with human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers, legal experts, security academics, and criminology and policing specialists. The multidisciplinary nature of the team, encompassing social, legal and technical expertise, benefits the examination of this timely issue and aids a holistic analysis of XR systems in the policing context. To date, we have been conducting a literature review to identify existing use cases of XR for police training as well as applications in other first responders domains (i.e., health, military, fire service). Our legal team has also begun mapping the complex legal context surrounding police use of XR for training purposes.

In this blog, I share some of our social team’s initial findings, set out our next research steps, and explain how interested parties could get involved in our study.

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