Participatory Metropolises: Protocols for Participation and Accessibility
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The scenario Participatory Metropolises proposes remarkable improvements to help institutions work on the decentralization of power while discovering best practices to improve connectivity among local governments and society as a whole.
On the brink of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, governments and urban planners are finding in open and crowdsourced digital platforms a means to make democracy truly collaborative and inclusive. That is the case of online participation channels happening in Crowd Platforms application where politicians and urban planners can assess civilians for better engagement and more representative decision-making. In West Africa, the use of such a platform helped strengthen participatory capacity in urban audits, allowing local communities to understand the major problems of municipal administration, such as analyzing current mechanisms for the provision of basic services and the collection of taxes.
The challenge here is thus to make the internet accessible to all people, so all individuals can have the same opportunity to access these platforms and collaborate. Projects such as Loon’s internet balloons are the first steps towards the fulfillment of making connectivity a granted human right rather than a privilege, as supported by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
With broader and more diverse inputs coming from civil society, governments and urban planners may grow more conscious about the actual issues that these people face in their daily routine. For instance, Inclusionary Zoning initiatives could respond to a public call for less segregation by adding low-to-moderate-income households among market-free constructions, as was the case of the Florida Housing Coalition.
The same goes for access to education and quality schools. Initiatives such as Itinerary School Station and Location-Based Learning could still guarantee that children have access to quality education even in the case of natural disasters like the ones observed in Uganda when primary schools in Nakaseke were destroyed by the rain.
Finally, the development of systems such as Real-time Mapping and Emergency Citizen Responder tools offer a new and more comprehensive means for law enforcement. Websites such as CrimeMapping make this kind of information publicly available, so people can be aware of criminal activity through daily updates that rank crimes by type (from arson to homicide, burglary, or even sex crimes), as well as a presentation of estimated risks for each mapped region. While working in partnership with American police departments, the initiative’s goal is thus to provide cost-effective solutions for law enforcement, while at the same time making the same information available to the community.
The global tendency towards the decentralization of administrative processes is being adopted rapidly. The construction of effective civic participation can help halt and predict disasters as well as delivering services to the most-needed places. However, the decentralization of power is not meant to remove responsibility from local governments to act on challenges, but help them leverage actions that address the specific needs and demands from their local communities. Redistributing urban planning and governance should improve collaboration but most importantly, it should arrive at solutions driven by the voice of the population.