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Polisdigitocracy: Digital Technology, Citizen Engagement and Climate Action

Posted by Content Coordinator on Friday, November 20th, 2015

C40 CITIES
ARUP

Executive Summary

Cities are leading the smart revolution…

Cities are increasingly taking a leading role in delivering climate action. The Climate Action in Megacities 3.01 (CAM 3.0) report shows that since 2011 C40 cities have taken 9,831 actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. In 2015, 51% of these actions are occurring on a city wide scale.

Simultaneously digital technologies are transforming the way in which citizens communicate – amongst their peers, their wider communities and with government. This is prompting governments to re-think how they engage with citizens and incorporate their voices into decision making – particularly around climate action. CAM 3.0 shows that more cities are allocating specific staff to plan and manage climate action as it relates to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, to improve cities’ operational efficiency across multiple sectors through the use of smart solutions.

Mayor Paes of Rio de Janeiro, chair of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, has introduced the concept of ‘Polisdigitocracy’ which considers how city governments leverage ICT and new social platforms to improve democratic engagement2. Meanwhile other cities are working with similar technologies that engage citizens in the co-creation of solutions to make their cities more liveable and sustainable.

In recognition of these trends, C40 and Arup have collaborated on this report to investigate and document what is happening on the ground in the use of digital technologies for citizen engagement in climate action. The aim has been to understand how cities are using digital platforms, social media, open data, crowdsourcing, hackathons and other engagement tools to create truly participative solutions and unlock climate action. Additionally, the report seeks to uncover the key building blocks for mainstreaming innovative uses of technology for community engagement and empowerment.

Call to collaborate

As the ‘Powering Climate Action’3 and ‘Climate Action in Megacities 3.0’ reports demonstrate, cities that collaborate are more likely to take effective and transformative action. Since 2005, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has convened its member cities – now numbering more than 80 – to exchange ideas, solutions and experiences through 16 thematic networks and six overarching initiative areas for climate mitigation and adaption. As such, C40 is well placed to facilitate deeper city-to-city collaboration on Polisdigitocracy, both by embedding digital technology and citizen engagement discussions through its existing energy, waste, transport, adaptation and other networks, and also by convening city IT officials to support the integration of Polisdigitocracy for climate action throughout city government.

This report calls for city governments to work together to understand the opportunities of Polisdigitocracy in their cities, innovate around potential solutions, adapt best practice guidance, and jointly assess potential challenges as well as share tactics to overcome them.

Introduction

As part of their smart city strategies cities are increasingly investing in open data stores, citizen engagement platforms, intelligent transport systems, smart grids and a vast array of other technologies.

Introducing Polisdigitocracy

Mayor Paes of Rio de Janeiro, chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), has coined the term ‘Polisdigitocracy’ which describes the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and new social platforms by city governments to improve democratic engagement and drive participatory climate action.

City governments globally are investing in ‘smart’ technologies to help them provide better services at lower financial and environmental cost. As part of their smart city strategies cities are increasingly investing in open data stores, citizen engagement platforms, intelligent transport systems, smart grids and a vast array of other technologies.

In the past, proponents of the smart city have been criticised for focusing solely on opportunities for system optimisation, efficiency and economic development. In more recent years city governments themselves have been developing a more holistic approach to understanding the opportunities afforded by digital technology. In particular there has been a drive towards understanding how ICT might be adopted to mediate citizen-government interaction. Polisdigitocracy is an attempt to bring this issue into sharper focus and unpick the political and governance implications of the smart city agenda.

From a climate perspective citizen engagement is a key enabler for progressing effective government action towards climate change targets across sectors. From understanding the challenges, developing potential solutions, implementing projects to evaluating outcomes, city governments around the world are experimenting with how to make the most of digital engagement tools to support their work.

Structure and purpose of this report

Inspired by the idea of Polisdigitocracy, C40 and Arup collaborated on this report to investigate and document what is happening on the ground in cities in the use of digital technologies for citizen engagement in climate action. This report presents the findings of a series of interviews with city governments in the C40 network as well as key C40 staff and a C40-hosted webinar where representatives from Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro presented their Polisdigitocracy related activities.

The study set out to understand whether Polisdigitocracy was relevant to climate action in cities. It has sought practical examples of how cities are using digital platforms, social media, open data, crowdsourcing, hackathons and other engagement tools to create truly participative solutions and unlock climate action.

This report is framed around three main sections. The first section provides the background to the concept of Polisdigitocracy and sets it within both the context of the smart city and climate action.

The second section presents a series of practical examples of how city governments are already using digital engagement technologies to meet a variety of city objectives.

The third section of this report discusses the building blocks being established by city governments to embed progressive democratic engagement across their departments and points to challenges city governments are still attempting to address.

C40 intends to integrate Polisdigitocracy concepts into its existing energy, waste, transport, adaptation and other networks and explore opportunities for deeper city collaboration on these issues. C40 and Arup hope that the insights in this report will stimulate a global dialogue on the political dimension of the smart city, prompt city governments to reflect on their own practice and take action accordingly.

Polisdigitocracy: the building blocks

Download full version (PDF): Digital Technology, Citizen Engagement and Climate Action

About C40 Cities
www.c40.org
Cities are where the future happens first. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 10th year, connects more than 75 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 550+ million people and one quarter of the global economy…Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.

About ARUP
www.arup.com
Founded in 1946 with an initial focus on structural engineering, Arup first came to the world’s attention with the structural design of the Sydney Opera House, followed by its work on the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Arup has since grown into a truly multidisciplinary organisation. Most recently, its work for the Singapore Sports Hub has reaffirmed its reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs that reinvent the built environment.

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