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Kenya Ranked Top Tech Hub in Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya has been ranked the second leading innovation hub in sub-Saharan Africa by the World Intellectual Property Organisation in its latest Global Innovation Index (GII) 2019 report.

Kenya’s so-called Silicon Savannah only trails upper middle income economy South Africa, with Mauritius coming third.

“Kenya has a track record for recording high levels of innovation, outperforming on levels of innovation relative to GDP for the ninth consecutive year, an excellent record at par with other lower-middle-income countries like India, the Republic of Moldova, and Vietnam,” reads the report.

Kenya’s innovative strength has been attributed to startups’ easy access to credit and microfinance loans.

“As in previous years, Africa shines in terms of innovation relative to level of development. Out of the 18 innovation achievers identified in the GII 2019, six (the most from any one region) are from the sub-Saharan African region,” says the report.

“Importantly, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar stand out for being innovation achievers at least three times in the previous eight years.”

When comparing levels of innovation to the level of economic development, India, Vietnam, Kenya, and the Republic of Moldova stand out for outperforming on innovation relative to GDP for the ninth consecutive year, which is a new record.

Noting that the geography of innovation is shifting from high-income to middle-income economies, the report nonetheless points out that innovation expenditures remain concentrated in a few economies and regions. Also, the survey adds that moving from a successful middle-income economy with innovation potential into an innovation powerhouse remains a big challenge thanks to “an impermeable innovation glass ceiling” that divides middle and high-income economies.

Most of the drive to break through that ceiling comes from China and to some extent India, Brazil, and Russia.

The research also points out differences in the effectiveness of economies in “translating innovation inputs into innovation outputs”. Some economies, it says, simply achieve more with less, with such discrepancy existing even among high-income economies.

“While Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden effectively translate their innovation inputs into a higher level of outputs. Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, for example, produce lower levels of output relative to their innovation inputs,” says the study.

The report further notes that assessing the quality, rather than only the quantity, of innovation inputs and outputs has become an overarching concern to the innovation community.

The GII makes an attempt at measuring innovation quality by looking at the standards of local universities, the internationalisation of patented inventions and the quality of scientific publications.

Taking into account these parameters among the high-income economies, the United Sates regains the top rank, ahead of Japan, which drops to third place this year. For the first time, Germany has moved up to second.

Globally, Switzerland continues to be the leading innovation hub in 2019 followed by Sweden and US respectively. South Africa was ranked 63, Kenya at 77, and Mauritius at number 82 globally.

Overall, the survey notes that innovation is blossoming around the world. In developed and developing economies alike, formal innovation as measured by research and development and patents — and less formal modes of innovation are thriving.

“Today, developed and developing economies of all types promote innovation to achieve economic and social development. It is now also better understood that innovation is taking place in all realms of the economy, not only in high-tech companies and technology sectors. As a result, economies are firmly centering their attention on the creation and upkeep of sound and dynamic innovation ecosystems and networks,” says the report.

There are, however, challenges that prevent the benefits of new advances in technology in one region from having a widespread impact across the globe.

The GII survey says increased protectionism that impacts technology-intensive sectors and knowledge flows, poses risks to global “innovation networks and innovation diffusion”. If left uncontained, these new obstacles to international trade, investment, and workforce mobility will lead to a slowdown of growth in innovation productivity across the globe, the report warns.

“Waning public support for research and development in high-income economies is concerning given its central role in funding basic projects and other blue sky research, which are key to future innovations— including for health innovation.”

However, the research believes that in the years to come, medical innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), genomics, and mobile health applications will transform the delivery of healthcare in both developed and emerging nations.

Source: businessdailyafrica

How Technology Can Help Housing Sector Development in Nigeria

In the housing sector, demand far outpaces supply. As the world’s population expands, finding suitable accommodation is a global problem. According to the World Resources Institute, the global affordable housing gap is estimated at 330 million households… and that’s just in urban environments. By 2025, this number is expected to grow by 30 per cent, leaving 1.6 billion people without secure, affordable housing. Current housing development plans, despite their best efforts, have proved inadequate.

In Nigeria, the situation is even grimmer with at least 17 million housing deficit. To bridge Nigeria’s housing gap, many believe that the current models and practises need to be revolutionised.

Nigeria is in the midst of a brutal housing crisis, and the issue of slow supply of housing to meet demand will be further exacerbated by the ongoing economic contraction and slow growth.

If the country is to meet its target of building enough homes for its teeming population, the industry cannot rely on government initiatives alone. This presents an opportunity for technology to bring some much-needed disruption to the construction sector.

Globally, the housing sector is undergoing a revolution in terms of both attitude and technology. How is tech being used to respond to the lack of quality homes, and what are the outcomes?

We shall now outline a few ways technology can rapidly improve housing sector development for Nigeria.

Data Technology

The 21st century is the age of data revolution. Modern planning and execution are heavily reliant on data and information technology. One of the bane to housing sector development in Nigeria is the lack of adequate and updated data.

The Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) has launched the National Real Estate Data Collation and Management Programme (NRE-DCMP), which is designed to help tackle housing problems in Nigeria, including that of deficit. Also, the NMRC has been doing tremendous work in the management of data, but a lot more need to be done, especially with regard to having a large central data pool that can be accessed by all stakeholders involved in planning and execution of housing sector developments.

Smart Cities and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The concept of smart cities and the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ are the buzz words that have dominated urban thinking and discussion in recent years. Developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing are promising a new era of contemporary urban development. Behind this era is the rapid and expediential growth of I.T devices, present within everything, from complex global systems to individual pocket devices. It is argued that the onset of the fourth industrial revolution and the smart city; where connected devices will number into the trillions, will transform urban areas into continuous ‘living labs’, constantly receiving, analyzing and refining data to efficiently manage products and services. The opportunities are captivating as much as they are countless and the pace of technological innovation so tireless that governments, municipalities and private enterprise are already struggling to comprehend the extent of their digital urban futures.

High Skilled and Automated Labour

The world is already adopting automated and high skilled labour forces to improve the quality and quantity of housing delivery. Nigeria’s fixation with brick and mortar can hardly ever scratch the surfaces when it comes to delivering quality and quantity. A lot of stakeholders have called for the embrace of researches and training to develop strategies that can compete with 21st century demands in the provision of housing.

Tech-Enabled Solutions Required For $10,000 Land Restoration Prize

Technology is today the go-to resource in finding solutions to almost every facet of human existence, and now, a new challenge seeks to explore it in finding solutions to the issues of unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land, said to be at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Named the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, it offers $10,000 for young entrepreneurs who are using technology to solve environmental, social and financial challenges that are focusing on land restoration activities in Africa.

The DOEN Foundation (Stichting DOEN), a Dutch fund supporting green, socially inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world, is collaborating with Seedstars, a leading emerging market startup community and investor, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, in order to find and award the best tech-enabled solutions in the land restoration and land degradation space.

According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it, said organisers of the prize in a statement.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve start-up performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10,000 USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially. The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered,” said Saskia Werther, program manager at the DOEN Foundation.

“DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit,” Werther said.

Source: businessdayng

IT Procurement Fraud Ring Targets Federal Agencies

A fraud ring with Nigerian roots is leveraging the Department of Homeland Security’s procurement operations to steal thousands of dollars worth of IT gear from vendors, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.

Fraudsters based in the U.S. and in Nigeria, according to a report issued by the DHS OIG on July 16, have been masquerading as DHS and other federal agency procurement officials to issue fake bid solicitations to commercial IT equipment vendors.

The OIG said it became aware of the scam last July, when it discovered members of a criminal ring based in Atlanta impersonating a DHS procurement officer to get shipments of computer equipment.

Referencing legitimate DHS solicitations for laptops, hard drives and smart phones and using the name of an actual DHS procurement official, said the report, the crooks faxed or emailed bogus orders to federal contractors across the U.S.

The crooks used spoofed government email addresses that were close to actual federal addresses, but slightly off, such as “rrb-gov.us,” according to the report. They also used headers ripped off of legitimate federal government emails, but the reply line used a slightly warped, non-governmental address, it said. In some cases, it said the group also refused to communicate via email and insisted on fax communications.

Leveraging the phony RFQs and other tactics, the group had vendors ship IT equipment to vacant commercial buildings. Once the equipment arrived at those desolate locations, the OIG said the group’s ringleader decided whether to resell the gear in the U.S. or ship it to Nigeria.

The vendors were left holding the bag for the loss.

The OIG said it found the gang was also using the scam to steal equipment not only from DHS, but also from other big federal agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and Transportation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The group even targeted the relatively tiny Railway Retirement Board.

Some of the buys, it said, were worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The OIG advised vendors to protect themselves by getting agency procurement officers’ telephone number and use them to confirm that an RFQ is legitimate. It also advised vendors to carefully scrutinize email address and to be wary of “purported procurement officials” who steer clear of email communications in favor of faxes. Typographical and grammatical errors, it said, should also set off alarm bells.

Source: Mark Rockwell

Dubai Land Department launches online payments for service fees

Dubai Land Department (DLD) has launched an electronic system for tenants and home owners to pay service fees, which has been designed to be more fair and transparent.

Operated through its regulatory arm Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), ‘Mollak’ – Arabic for ‘owners’ – allows owners to pay community service fees directly to the system, as opposed to the developer.

It monitors service charge payments in co-owned properties and works within the real estate owners’ databases and the database of real estate units registered and approved by DLD.

HE Marwan bin Ghalita, CEO of RERA, said: “Through the system, RERA seeks to increase the role of governance, regulation, and supervision as well as the participation of private sector specialists to increase real estate transparency and maintain the balance between real estate developers, management companies, and homeowners.

“This is to increase customer satisfaction and happiness in the services provided by RERA as well as facilitate the procedures of real estate unit owners when dealing with management companies and managing service-fee accounts.”

Through the system, 468 bank accounts were successfully opened for project service charges, 88 management companies and 1,212 real estate projects were registered and approved by RERA as well as 200,000 real estate units, comprising residential apartments, villas, offices, and commercial shops.

RERA also attracted seven banks to act as account trustees for co-owned properties and registered eight financial auditors to explicitly audit the application fees that were submitted for accreditation.

Senior director of the real estate relations regulatory department at RERA, Mohammed bin Hammad said: “Thanks to the innovative new Mollak system, co-owned property projects will be managed with the utmost provision of high-quality services in line with the expectations of owners and residents.”

RERA’s registration of auditors and banks to monitor transactions in the system is evidence of its emphasis on security, regulation, and customer trust.”

Real estate unit owners are notified electronically of a unit’s service fees with the publication of a unit’s service-fee-approval data in the service and maintenance fees index on DLD’s website.

The management company then requests owners to pay the services fees through the Mollak system, and sends the service-fee invoices in accordance with the amounts approved by RERA but without any financial additions, especially as the system only works on financial accounts approved by RERA.

The system includes providing easy solutions to enable owners to pay service fees through approved channels that were agreed upon by banks and the electronic payment gateway, Noqoodi.

Tech Integration, Multilevel Collaboration and Holistic 3D Modeling Pivotal for Smart City Development

Making cities smart will take time and effort. It is critical to create a policy and regulatory environment that enables all the stakeholders. This shall be a nuanced approach to a smart, and yet sustainable roadmap for urban development, emphasizes Deepak NG, Director Innovative Business & Global Affairs, Dassault Systèmes, in an exclusive interview with Geospatial World.

What are some of the major challenges that lie towards transitioning to a smart city and what are the ways to overcome them?

With growing globalization and urbanization, development of smart cities has turned out to be a necessity. But converting a constructed city into a smart city comes with several challenges that need to be addressed at the earliest. Major challenges that lie ahead of smart city development are that the traditional methods and techniques of urban planning are outdated and can’t be implemented. Along with this, the challenges of available resources, required skill sets for smart city planning and development, unavailability of infrastructure and the coordination and collaboration between multiple stakeholders poise severe challenges to smart city developments.

To build a modern day smart city we need smarter designing techniques to guarantee success and resourcefulness of the city. Proper designing and simulation of the essential infrastructure need to be taken with the utmost priority as the infrastructure will lay the foundation of a smart city. 3D modeling and simulation should be used to test the prototypes virtually before they are passed on to the construction phase. Deployment of advanced technology solutions and its integration will be the key to maintaining collaboration between several stakeholders.

What should be done to encourage a broad collaboration between decision-makers, technology providers and all other smart city stakeholders?

Today, if you look at any department or government office they have adopted one or the other technology to support day to day activities, it’s becoming very important that we reduce standalone methods which is resulting in delays. While there are many service providers offering best in class technology, decision makers are struggling with too many data maintained in an unstructured environment. Thus, a collaborative platform which can host and integrate different applications to meet the current need of Smart city requirement is essential. For example, many startups and technology companies are coming up with very good quick start applications but they are implemented in silos. If we can integrate and provide one single dashboard for all the stakeholders will result in a single source of truth, which will help in cost reduction, fewer prototypes, timely delivery and faster decision making.

What is the future of smart cities and how to enhance our technological capability and preparedness?

 The notion of smart cities is always perceived as what the future will look like, but it is not the sole purpose for the inception of smart cities. Rather requirement of sufficient water resources, universal access to clean energy, adequate transportation facilities and sense of security are some of the major reasons behind the emergence of smart cities in India. With the rapid increase in urbanization, it is expected that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will move into urban areas, thus posing a serious challenge for city planners to make available the basic amenities and resources to the population.

Smart Cities coupled with the latest technology innovations have been heralded as the key to tackle the challenges posed by rapid urbanization. Smart cities create a place where everything is connected and technology operates behind the scenes to ensure that all the elements of daily life run smoothly.

Smart technologies such as a municipal network of optical fiber, free Wi-Fi, routed street lighting and sensors to monitor air quality would help smart cities evolve more and serve the society as a whole. Technology innovations in the engineering and construction space provide an extra mile for the successful establishment of a smart city.

3D city, data analytics, simulation have helped the smart city project managers in collaboration and management of the complex projects. One of the major contributions of technology to the cities of the future is the relevance of the bundles of data that needs to be analyzed for customization and more viability of smart cities.

Talking specifically about India, which is an emerging economy with a rapidly urbanizing population, what, in your view, is the way forward for the country’s ambitious smart city project?

Making cities smart will take time and effort. It is critical to create a policy and regulatory environment that enables all the stakeholders. This shall be a nuanced approach to a smart, and yet sustainable roadmap for urban development. Smart cities need to be sustainable as well in order to ensure successful returns on investments made in developing them. It is projected that developing smart cities will demand substantial investments, which will be locked in for the long term, and in turn, shape India’s urban future. Without an urban development policy and an urban planning framework, private sector dominance at this juncture of urbanization is indeed a challenging situation.

IoT and 5G would be the bedrock of smart city and interconnectivity would be crucial for all the vital services in a smart city, ranging from healthcare to transportation. Do you think a virtual 3D model can provide a better overview and help identify the lacunae and the shortcomings if any?

IoT and 5G are anticipated to be the key buildings for smart cities for quite some time now. 5G and IoT are interconnected in the context of smart cities. 5G can benefit smart cities by improving connectivity and supporting IoT technology expansion through sensors and other connected devices. 5G will also allow other IoT devices with seamless connectivity in smart city domains such as transportation, energy and water resource consumption, healthcare and public safety. In the future, we may also see that the proliferation of the IoT and the impending development of 5G connectivity will open the floodgates for smart cities.

Though 5G and IoT are going to be necessary elements for smart cities, the virtual city or virtual model of the city is still the core for laying the foundation for any smart city project. 3D models of cities are useful for planning environmental analysis, managing transportation sector, risk management and visualizations of proposed new developments.

With an intelligent platform with applications like modeling, simulation, governance and so on, planners can make informed decisions for a smarter and more sustainable world. Thus, a virtually constructed and virtually monitored city can help in addressing not only the complexities one faces while building a city but also the behavior of the smart cities once they are inhabited.

What are some of the smart city projects that you are working on currently?

In India, we have worked for the development of Jaipur Smart City and the project got completed recently. We have also engaged with Andhra Pradesh state government on infrastructure project management. We expect to deliver more such projects in multiple other states in India in the near future.

Could you elucidate on Dassault Systèmes flagship smart city module 3DEXPERIENCity and tell us about its main advantages over other methods?

At Dassault Systèmes, we strongly believe that sustainability is the only way forward. Cities need to be planned to provide a growth that is smart as well as sustainable. Moreover, it is essential to take a holistic approach while designing a city.

The 3DEXPERIENCity by Dassault Systèmes allows you to create a 3DEXPERIENCE Twin, which help in reflecting changes in the city and the way forward in the virtual world. It takes a holistic approach to ensure and ease regulatory compliance, maximum sustainability and resilience.

3DEXPERIENCity, a virtual platform for smart city aims at federating all initiatives of sustainable and efficient availability of key resources such as power, water, transport and healthcare for the benefit of the people of city and the respective state actors. The fact that 3D is a unique way to share complex phenomena of innovative collaboration and technologies to a very broad audience, enabling to connect experts, city authorities and citizen around a common media or language will greatly enhance the outreach and participation.

By using simulation and systems engineering different stakeholders of a smart city can anticipate the impact of their choices, in a holistic manner by running simulations and mapping to-be scenarios as to how the city will shape in the next 5, 10 or 20 years so that efficient town planning can be done. 3DEXPERIENCity leverages the power of Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform to bring together a wide range of territorial data with our industry-leading analytical, modeling, simulation and lifecycle management abilities.

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform’s design and simulation applications were used to model the city’s buildings, architectural superstructures and infrastructure. The virtual model offers a meeting place for all the city’s stakeholders – elected officials, residents, developers, planners, architects, entrepreneurs, energy suppliers, water utilities, waste treatment managers, transportation systems, and communications networks – to collaborate and innovate together as they plan and build the sustainable city of the future.

Virtual Singapore was one of the earliest smart city models by Dassault. Could you throw some light on the project?

 “Virtual Singapore” is championed by National Research Foundation (NRF), the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), in collaboration with Dassault Systèmes. “Virtual Singapore” integrates city data from sensors and systems in 3DEXPERIENCity’s collaborative environment to virtually represent and manage Singapore’s data and processes.

Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCity solution is used to create a dynamic, 3D digital model of Singapore and connect all stakeholders in a secured and controlled environment. The model enabled data analytics and simulations to test and validate envisioned concepts that will enable the quality of Singapore’s living environment to be maintained as its population continues to grow.

The 3DEXPERIENCity also gathered IoT data in a way that enables it to be analyzed and visualized so that people can envision, create and test possibilities for the future before they are realized. Thus, by leveraging Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCity, powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Virtual Singapore project concluded well making Singapore one of the most advanced cities in terms of leveraging technology to plan and manage its transformation over the next decades. Powered by new and sophisticated analysis of images and data collected from public agencies and real-time sensors, Virtual Singapore is designed to give a whole new meaning to the term smart cities.

What is the Dassault Systèmes vision for smart cities?

With the help of advanced technologies, creating sustainable smart cities has become a step easier. Our vision is to work towards the development of a maximum number of modern technology and IT-enabled smart cities across the country and developing the country’s infrastructure working with several state governments. We aim to create holistic and virtual models that enable urban planners to digitally study and test ideas the impact of urbanization, both within the invisible boundaries of their city, and also on the entire planet and its resources. We have also set up a specific team for the smart initiative launched by the government and the team is completely dedicated to working into that area.

Source: Geospatialworld

Proposed Regulations Allow Majority of Homes to be Sold Without Human Appraisal

The battle between man and bot has a new front: your mortgage.

Federal regulators have proposed loosening real-estate appraisal requirements to enable a majority of U.S. homes to be bought and sold without being evaluated by a licensed human appraiser. That potentially opens the door for cheaper, faster, but largely untested property valuations based on computer algorithms.

The proposal was made earlier this month by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve. It would increase to $400,000, from $250,000, the value of homes that can be bought and sold without a tape-measure-toting appraiser visiting a property.

Key Takeaways
Federal regulators have proposed loosening real-estate appraisal requirements to enable a majority of U.S. homes to be bought and sold without being evaluated by a licensed human appraiser
Some worry, though, that dropping appraisal requirements would introduce new risks into the $10.7 trillion market for home loans.
“The appraisal profession is suffering a death by a thousand cuts,” said Joan Trice, chief executive of Allterra Group
More than two-thirds of U.S. homes sell for $400,000 or less, according to U.S. Census data and the National Association of Realtors. If the regulators’ proposal had been in force last year, about 214,000 additional home sales, or some $68 billion worth, could have been made without an appraisal, regulators said in their 69-page proposal.

Some worry, though, that dropping appraisal requirements would introduce new risks into the $10.7 trillion market for home loans.

“We still would prefer a human being doing the appraisal,” said Lima Ekram, a mortgage-backed securities analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

One issue: Automated valuations done by computers are largely unregulated. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul required regulators to propose quality control standards for so-called automated valuation models, but they have yet to do so.

“There are a lot of problems with appraisals, but there are voluminous standards,” said Ritesh Bansal, chief executive of Appraisal Inc., a New York-based provider of automated valuations. “On the AVM side, it’s a wild, wild West. And that just invites abuse of all kind.”

Regulators say the immediate effect of dropping appraisal requirements would be limited because a vast majority of home loans in that range are bought these days by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , or guaranteed by other federal agencies. Those typically require appraisals regardless of home value.

Appraisals help “ensure that the estimated value of the property supports the purchase price and the mortgage amount,” regulators wrote in their proposal. “However, the agencies also are aware that the cost and time of obtaining an appraisal can, in some cases, result in delays and higher expenses.”

Scrapping the appraisal requirement would open a swath of new turf for upstart property valuation companies, like HouseCanary Inc., which use artificial intelligence, algorithms and sometimes even drones to value homes. Jeremy Sicklick, the company’s chief executive, said that replacing appraisers with computers will speed up home sales by weeks, reduce costs for buyers and eliminate human bias and error from the process of valuing mortgage collateral.

“The technology has reached the level to where this change creates a win-win for the consumer and lender,” Mr. Sicklick said.

Although appraisals are based on criteria such as sales of recent comparable homes, they are sometimes more art than science. And appraisers came under fire following the housing crisis, shouldering much blame for inflating home prices at lenders’ behest.

Their latest turf battle comes months after a defeat at the hands of lawmakers rolling back some financial-crisis-era banking rules. That change eliminated a chunk of appraisers’ business by exempting many rural properties from appraisals.

“The appraisal profession is suffering a death by a thousand cuts,” said Joan Trice, chief executive of Allterra Group, a Maryland firm that tracks the industry.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Next Housing Bubble Could Come From Technology

(Bloomberg Opinion) — A decade after the housing crash, it is now possible to buy or sell a house with the click of a mouse. If the practice catches on, it could lead to a far more efficient and affordable housing market — or another devastating bubble.

So-called iBuying (for instant buying) involves firms using algorithms to provide sellers with fixed-price offers on their homes. While housing is a good long-term investment, it is bedeviled by multiple instances of market failure. The most fundamental is that the seller has a lot more information about the condition of the property than the potential buyer. Buyers and investors are therefore cautious. Disclosure requirements help, but they are often lengthy and confusing.

This is where the algorithms come in: They read disclosures, do market comparisons, evaluate timing, assess nearby rental vacancies and consider a host of other factors to arrive at an estimate of the house’s value. That allows the iBuying firms to comfortably offer an instant price. Last year in Phoenix, Arizona, approximately 5% of the homes were sold through instant buying, and investors own as many as 22,000 houses in the area.

But the real potential of iBuying is during the next real estate downturn. As the real estate market slows, the opportunity to sell instantly will become more attractive, and more properties could end up in the hands of big investors.

This ability to sell properties instantly also encourages the adoption of a second technology: click-to-buy. For many of the same reasons big investors have been reluctant to move into the home market, small-time real estate investors have traditionally taken their time and stayed in neighborhoods they know well.

But now online real-estate firms such as Redfin are offering better technology, such as 3D maps, which allows potential homebuyers to purchase sight unseen. A large inventory of homes owned by respected firms would add liquidity to this market, allowing small investors to get in and out more easily.

Together, these two technologies could serve as a kind of market-maker: A platform that allows buyers and sellers to find each other. As an asset that can be easily bought and sold at known prices, real estate would be coveted by investors, who are willing to accept a lower return on their investment in exchange for the convenience of easy trading.

The yield on an asset is its price divided by the yearly cash flow it generates. For stocks, the cash flow is dividends. For houses, it is rental income. Housing investors have generally considered a price-to-rent ratio of 12 to 15 as a good investment. That corresponds to a yield of  7% to 9%. On the other hand, the average dividend yield on stocks is about 2%, corresponding to a price-to-dividend ratio of just over 50.

So what would happen if houses became as easy to trade as stocks? At first, the price of homes would soar. That happened during the last housing bubble, when lower lending standards added liquidity to the housing market by making it easier for investors to sell quickly to less qualified borrowers.

At the peak of the housing bubble, the average price-to-rent ratio in the U.S. rose to about 21, well outside the range housing investors consider safe. The existence of a market-maker in housing, however, could drive yields down to the level of stocks, creating a potential bubble twice as big as the one that occurred in the early 2000s.

A lot depends on how the home construction market responds if this new technology catches on. With homes selling at 50 times yearly rent, the incentive to build more homes would be huge. Investment would flock to home construction, expanding supply and pushing down both prices and rents. The price-to-rent ratio would remain high, but because rents were falling, home prices would eventually come down to affordable levels.

On the other hand, if the supply of houses did not expand, then housing prices would remain elevated — and investors would eventually crowd out owner-occupiers in the housing market. The U.S. would become a nation of (mostly) renters.

A rigid supply of housing would also make prices more volatile. During good times housing prices would soar, just as they do in the stock market. In bad times prices would crash. That volatility could add permanent instability to the U.S. economy.

New Technologies Drive Modern Building Designs

www.euronews.com reported that drones, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, 3D-printing, Big Data and the Internet of Things; such are the new additions to the architect’s toolbox that will change the way we

To discuss and debate how to use these new tools, architects and engineers gathered in Copenhagen for the Innochain exhibition 2018.

Hosted by the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the event was organised around the work of 15 researchers who used the latest digital tools to explore new horizons in Architectural design.

Source: Punchng

Stakeholders Validate Technology Plans for Renewable Energy Resources

Industry stakeholders have endorsed three comprehensive sectoral Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) technology plans for renewable energy resources – solar, wind and biomass.

The experts also validated the draft report from the international consultant on development of Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) mechanism for Nigerian power sector and the draft grid emission factor calculations for the sector.

Nigeria electricity grid faces many challenges, including insufficient grid-connected capacity to meet demand, inadequate infrastructure to make the country’s abundant gas available for power generation, and an inefficient transmission and distribution system with limited coverage.

Consequently, 50 per cent of the electrical energy consumed in the country is currently produced off-grid by diesel and gasoline generators of all shapes and sizes and there is also high unmet demand amongst the rural population. These energy gaps can be reduced with the country’s renewable energy resource potential such as solar, wind, biomass and hydropower energy.

Essentially, the stakeholders met for a two-day validation workshop in Lagos, organised by United Nations Development Programme under the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) De-Risking Renewable Energy for the Power Sector. The five-year demonstration project is being implemented in Nigeria with the Energy Commission of Nigeria and Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.

Speaking at the workshop, the Project Team Leader, Okon Ekpeyong, an engineer, explained that the overall objective of the project is to assist the government in achieving a transformation in the electricity mix such that at least 20 GW of Nigeria’s electricity is generated from solar PV by 2030.

According to him, the project will contribute to the country’s attainment of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mitigation targets in the energy sector, with expected direct emission reductions of 205,700 tons of carbon dioxide during the projects lifetime and additional indirect emission reductions of between 6.79 and 9.72 million tCO2e.

Okon said the project seeks to develop MRV framework, with appropriate indicators, to measure, report and verify emission reductions that will be generated by the investment in low-carbon activities under the NAMA/NDCs.

“The documents are articulated plan with specific, convincing request for financial and technical resources to help promoted the uptake and diffusion of solar PV, wind and biomass climate technologies in Nigeria and propose a road map or action plan for implementation,” he said.

Okon stated that many on-going energy projects do not consider the critical role of an MRV methodology in assessing the contribution of NAMA implementation to the overall national voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

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