The Role of Network Science in Analyzing Slums in Rapidly Growing Urban Areas

The Role of Network Science in Analyzing Slums in Rapidly Growing Urban Areas | Source: ETH Zurich, Aug 19 2016 |

As Amy Krakowka Richmond and her colleagues see it, military forces operating in nonlinear urban and urban-fringe environments will increasingly have to deal with volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) settings. So, what can these forces do to analyze and anticipate these contexts effectively? Use the latest insights from network theory, argue the authors.

An excerpt: Using Water Resources to Explain Informal Governance Structure

As water is critical for health and wellness of any community, its distribution is absolutely central for maintaining peace and coordination of a region. Urban and peri-urban communities of developing societies offer insights about how both formal government and informal power hierarchy can determine access and control of limited resources. We illustrate the utility of network models by exploring network maps of water availability in urban and peri-urban regions in the developing world. Historically, tension has been fueled when disparate social classes with numerous ethnic affiliations from distinct regions of a state are brought into close proximity and forced to rely on restricted resources. In many cases, political and other influential entities can act as informal gatekeepers, whose role can either aggravate or alleviate such tensions. The complexity of the problem is only made worse by the lack of centralized oversight of the various natural resources, such as water, food, and energy, as well as the physical land upon which these resources are drawn. We suggest that this problem be examined from a systems perspective, by mapping, quantifying and evaluating how well various interdependent systems related to water supply are maintained and balanced. In the figure above we show the various networks that are likely involved in the access and consumption of water.

The water access and consumption network isolates where and how the resources directly impact the population. This network is bi-modal as it is made up two types of nodes: water consumers and water sources. The links indicate which households get water from which source(s). Water is consumed primarily by three sectors: agriculture, households and commercial operations. This network directly reflects constraints to water access—­­how far and how many sources can households access. Households can obtain water from multiple sources. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, a significant portion of the population lacks access to piped water and therefore households rely primarily on springs, communal taps, and open water sources such as lakes and rivers. Analysis of this network can show how water consumption relies on particular types of sources and which suppliers in turn wield the most economic and possibly social and political influence.

The water distribution infrastructure network traces how communal taps and other point-of-service water sources obtain their water. In most cities this supply network consists of multiple connected components of varying sizes and capacities. Successfully mapping the city’s water distribution network could have important implications for residents’ vulnerability in the event of conflict or the outbreak of a waterborne illness such as cholera. Understanding this layer of the network could be significant for the tactical forces in a military operation of any nature.

The resource management network shows which actors control and govern the use of communal resources, including food, water, sanitation, and land. For water, these actors include the city’s official piped water supplier, city-wide agencies, local municipal councils, community organizations, local “strongmen” and their associates, as well as individuals who own or control particular taps, toilets, plots of land, and so forth. Understanding these connections can explain what barriers exist and which actors are needed to be included before operational changes can be implemented. In addition, network analysis can identify potential flashpoints for conflict over these resources, be they “turf wars” over the right to sell services, land-ownership disputes, resistance against the expansion of city services into new areas, or a conflict over resource control.



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