NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab drives Citizen Engagement through Ideas Competitions

Citizen engagement and participatory governance are viewed as two essential prerequisites for urbanisation that is world class, environmentally sustainable and drives economic growth. Involving residents of a city in planning new projects can go a long way in facilitating easier implementation and creating ownership for infrastructure. This is one of the key features and objectives of the 100 smart cities mission.

Building on the curiosity, genuine interest and enthusiasm engendered by the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ the CIDCO Smart City Lab, over the last 3 months, has assisted the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and Pune Municipal Corporation in conceptualising competitions for citizen engagement. For both competitions the CIDCO Smart City Lab took on the responsibility of evaluating entries (a total of around 8,500) along with support in conceptualising the competitions, identifying experts and administration.

Acting as a knowledge partner the CIDCO Smart City Lab in collaboration with the Government of India’s online platform MyGov, organised the ‘Mera Shahar Mera Sapna’ contest, a precursor to the launch of the National Smart Cities Mission. The competition ran from 15 June 2015 to 20 June 2015. Citizens were asked to contribute their ideas and solutions for addressing challenges faced by Indian cities. The format posed 12 questions related to city-level challenges across three distinct categories. The mix of questions were aimed at crowd-sourcing solutions and understanding the priorities of citizens for informing future strategies.

The interest generated by the competition motivated Pune Municipal Corporation to invite Punekars to share their ideas on making Pune a smarter city. The ‘Maza Swapna, Smart Pune’ competition gave citizens an open ended brief to share their ideas on major themes of urbanisation. Drawing on lessons from MoUD’s competition, the Pune edition took citizen engagement to the next level by organising an online citizen poll to choose the top 10 ideas (out of 30 shortlisted entries). The entries included smart strategies for bicycle sharing schemes, revitalisating the local river, reducing wastage of food, smart garbage management and improving public safety among others.

Both competitions saw enthusiastic and passionate participation with several sensible and innovative suggestions. Moving forward cities should focus on 1) increasing the scope of such citizen engagement (by including offline formats), 2) asking citizens the right questions because the common man may not be an expert but might have insights and3) doing quick research and demonstration projects to test the feasibility of these ideas or build viable business plans.