Reading and Video: What is urban crowdsourcing?
The concept of crowdsourcing is based on the idea that digital technologies can help to collect and organise contributions from communities of non-professional individuals in order to design and develop innovative projects and solutions. Famous examples of crowdsourcing are Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap, where every day millions of individuals put their knowledge at the disposal of a large community towards a shared objective.
Crowdsourcing provides a complementary approach with respect to the technical ones typical of Smart Cities, which are relying on data produced by sensors and analysed by algorithms. Crowdsourcing is a way to put citizens back at the heart of the digital revolution, not as individuals but as parts of a greater community. Because of the quantity of data they continuously produce, cities are a perfect context for crowdsourcing methods. In terms of local governance, crowdsourcing can make decision making and problem-solving more equal and closer to citizens by bringing in voices that are not usually considered. It can also increase the sustainability of projects by fostering the long-term investment of people in a certain project or idea.
Local authorities use crowdsourcing for different things, for instance:
- to guarantee the requested accountability and to prove the effectiveness of their action by fostering through digital tools the interaction with citizens; by using apps such as FixMyStreet citizens that can track how public officers are working following the crowd inputs.
- to request expert contributions from citizens, as a way to re-engage politically-disaffected citizens. By using apps such as Idée Paris citizens are invited to propose and choose new city projects.
Finally, many cities are offering apps through which citizens can report issues related for example to garbage collection, holes in the streets, traffic problems, directly to the city government. Examples of these services are “Find it, Fix it” used in Seattle or the one from Johannesburg.
In this video “Crowdsourcing the Indian city”, (8:45 minutes), Naresh Narasimhan, who has led participatory processes in large Indian cities such as Bangalore, invites citizens to improve the livability of their cities by being aware of their environment and by taking responsibilities about the future of their communities and cities: