‘Motivate and encourage citizens to e-participate’ (Project b-Part)
JPI Urban Europe project b-Part on e-participation of citizens and communities in cities.
b-Part: ‘In the previous requirements phase of b-Part, we conducted extensive reviews on the state-of-the-art of mobile applications for e-participation and identified a clear gap in the field of strategic, long-term participation of citizens. Further, most of the existing apps nowadays are one-way reporting tools and do not enable more interactive communication between citizens and municipalities.’
Dynamically highlight a city’s strengths and weaknesses
b-Part: ‘In this stage our main efforts are concentrated on designing and prototyping advanced e-participation approaches for smartphones and ubiquitous technology. Due to the identified gap, we put emphasis on investigating application concepts which might be able to motivate and encourage citizens to participate in the longer term. For example, we currently explore application designs which combine location-based game elements and social features including participation tasks with the goal to dynamically highlight a city’s strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of citizens and entire communities.’
b-Part: ‘Secondly we focus on exploring new forms of interactivity and feedback through public displays which have become omnipresent in urban environments. We think that such displays are a great communication channel to inform citizens about ongoing municipal activities. Since most of them lack any feedback opportunity, we study new ways to easily ‘connect’ smartphones to such displays which then act as remote controls to voice an opinion and retrieve personal feedback. A preliminary field test with such an interactive public display was very promising and showed the potential of posing questions of public interest directly at site while providing various feedback opportunities. Accompanying these prototyping activities, we work on a survey to collect the attitudes of both citizens and politicians towards such new forms of e-participation. The results will help us to customize to future users’ expectations.’
Roadmap for politicians
b-Part: ‘One of the cornerstones of b-Part is its Living Lab evaluation to be conducted in Turku and most of b-Part’s major results are directly related to this long-term field study. Based on the currently investigated prototypes, we will realize a functional robust software platform including validated novel e-participation applications for the living lab. From small-scale forerunner studies and the actual long-term field test, we will be able to provide concrete guidelines how to make the selected pervasive participation applications attractive to use while still considering the so-called digital divide. Since novel e-participation approaches also have an impact on overall governance and democratic processes, b-Part’s political scientists will provide a roadmap for policymakers on how such new participation concepts might become effective policy-making tools. Finally, the real-world experiences gained during setting up, conducting and post-processing this e-participation living lab will be of great value for both practitioners and scientists in the complex field of next-generation citizen participation.’