Innovative tools for citizen consultation in Latin-American cities through a mobile app

Abu Dhabi, 09 February 2020 – Within the confines of the tenth session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10), UN-Habitat held a well-attended networking event entitled “Technology and Citizen Engagement: Using innovative mobile phone technology in monitoring the SDG11 in cities”.

The event brought innovation to the forefront and displayed how technology can bridge the gap between the inhabitants and local authorities. It also captured their views on the effectiveness of public policies that affect their lives and how innovation can raise citizens’ awareness about the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Opening the panel discussion, Gustavo Maia, founder and CEO of Colab[1], unveiled the result of the Sustainable Cities and Communities Consultation carried out in Brazil for two consecutive years (2018-2019 and 2019-2020). The initiate involves a survey related to the Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG11), which engages citizens, civil society organizations and local governments. Jesus Cepeda, CEO of OS City[2], added to the discussion the preliminary results obtained in Bolivia -La Paz and Tarija- and Peru -Chimbote, Miraflores, Trujillo and Barranco.

Among the most outstanding findings of the session are the results of La Paz. According to preliminary results from La Paz, citizens perceived transport as one of the city’s strengths. This data was supported by the presentation of Edgar Pacheco, director of research and data of the municipality of La Paz, which showed all the efforts and investments that the municipality has made to improve mobility and accessibility through cable cars. The example above validates the reliability of the data collected by the Consultation and how this can support decision-makers in evaluating and adjusting policies in their cities.

“Institutional capacity is very important to achieve our goals”, Daniel Mancebo de Araujo, coordinator of the planning office of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, said during his presentations where he shared the efforts that the municipality is making to bring citizenry closer to the decision-making.

Finally, the session was attended by Beatriz Gonzalez Mendoza, coordinator of the project “Accountability Systems for Measuring, Monitoring and Reporting on Sustainable City Policies in Latin America”, who outlined how a capacity building exercise in Latin America led to an app that allows citizens to share their opinions on the state of urbanization in Latin-American cities and the progress of SDG11. The project is funded by the UN Development Account and implemented by UN-Habitat in collaboration with ECLAC.

To date, the Consultation has involved over 20,000 citizens in Brazil (in the two years of implementation) and nearly 5,000 citizens in the six participating cities of Bolivia and Peru. The Consultation concluded on 10 February 2020 in Brazil and will end on 31 March in the other two countries.

[1] Colab is a citizen-to-government engagement platform that offers a social network for citizens, focused on issue reporting, urban improvement suggestions and public services evaluations, as well as participation in the decision-making process. The Sustainable Cities and Communities Consultation in Brazil was developed and implemented through the partnership of Colab and UN-Habitat.

[2] OS City is a Mexico-based start-up that uses technology to detect the needs of cities and gather large amounts of data to build sustainable cities and improve decision-making in an inclusive and participatory manner. OS City developed the Consultation in Bolivia and Peru.

Innovative tools for citizen consultation in Latin-American cities through a mobile app