Citizen engagement values the right of a citizen to have an informed say in the decisions that affect their lives. It requires governments to share in agenda-setting and to ensure that policy proposals generated jointly will be taken into account in reaching a final decision. (OECD, 2001). The Smart Cities Mission has identified citizen engagement as an important activity within the strategic planning process. The mission has institutionalised it by making it mandatory and giving it 16% weightage in the scoring criteria for the selection of a city in Stage II of the challenge.
The strategies of citizen engagement vary largely based on local context. Among the twenty lighthouse cities, there are some which excelled in almost all aspects of citizen engagement, while others which have failed in some. Bhubaneswar and Pune are the two cities which carried out comprehensive citizen engagement throughout the preparation of their Smart City Proposals (SCP). Though the other eighteen cities could not match these two, there are aspects worth mentioning, which although may seem trivial, had a great impact, on the SCPs of cities. The inclusion strategy of Solapur, locally relevant means of sensitising citizens in Jabalpur, comprehensive use of
MyGov platform in Udaipur are few of the noteworthy citizen engagement efforts.
Theoretical Assessment of Citizen Engagement in Smart Cities Challenge
Citizen engagement in the smart cities challenge is assessed in three parts – self assessment of cities, preparation of SCP and future scenario of citizen engagement with the implementation of the SCP. In self assessment, the cities assessed the ongoing citizen engagement by identifying themselves in one of the four scenarios defined in the Smart City guidelines. Indicators of the ongoing citizen engagement were sought by means of the key performance indicators assessed listed under administrative efficiency of the city. The four scenarios as discussed in the guidelines are- scenario 1, called the ‘base’ and scenario 4, called the ‘advanced’. Four out of twenty citiesidentified themselves in the advanced scenario. Pune and Belgavi stands out in self assessment since they supported their claim in scenario 4 and scenario 3 respectively with various methods which the city has engaged and is still engaging its citizens with.
For preparing the SCP, the guideline mandates citizen engagement in three rounds. These are- in visioning the smart city, in identifying area based development and pan city solutions, and in implementation of the area based development proposal and pan city solution. It is required that the right method of engagement be deployed at the right time for the right people to harness the full benefit of citizen engagement in any smart city.
The three rounds are defined by MoUD as-
- Round 1 includes profiling the city and defining its vision, determining city goals, identifying area based developments and pan city solution.
- Round 2 includes providing feedback on the pan city and area based proposals and their development through
- Round 3 includes finalisation of the smart city proposal for the city in the proposal format.
While most of the cities adhered to the framework prescribed by SCP, some cities followed internationally accepted frameworks and some cities developed their own frameworks to bring out the best citizen engagement from their cities. International Association for Public Participation’s (IAP2) five stage framework was followed in Bhubaneswar. Pune developed its own strategy which included a 5-stage structured approach for pan city proposal and a 4-stage structured approach for area based development.
The cities during the exercise of self assessment also identified implementation of the SCP. This depends to a large degree on the citizen centric initiatives in the SCP. The ultimate aim of citizen engagement, explained as scenario 4 under self assessment of citizen engagement, is ‘to constantly conduct citizen engagement with people at each ward
level to incorporate their views, and these shape priorities and development projects in the city. Multiple means of communication and getting feedback, both offline and online are to be utilised. The effectiveness of city governance and service delivery has to be constantly enhanced on the basis of feedback from citizens.’ All the cities aim towards achieving scenario 4 of citizen engagement after implementation of the SCP. Guwahati shows clear intentions to engage citizens continuously in the implementation of the SCP as well. The city plans to undertake similar initiatives at stages of the detail proposal development as well as for future projects in the city.
Process of Citizen Engagement in Preparation of SCP
The process of citizen engagement is guided by the three round framework in which cities are asked to engage citizens in visioning exercise for the city, collaborate with citizens in preparing the area based and pan city proposal and inform citizens of the final smart city plan. The score assigned to each activity in citizen engagement reveals the scope of engagement within the activity to the cities. 16 points out of 100 are assigned for citizen engagement, with 10 points in developing the city’s vision and the strategic plan, 5 points in developing proposal for the area based development and 1 point in developing proposal for the pan city solution.
Insights from various rounds of citizen engagement
1. City Visioning
With the maximum score being devoted to development of the city vision, cities underwent wide and intense engagement in this process. It involved creating an interest among citizens and engaging them so as to identify their aspirations which can define the city’s goals. The vision thus developed for the city is a result of many factors including an understanding of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the city, but most significantly it is the citizens aspiration for their city. The process of citizen engagement for development of the city vision involves three steps- informing citizens, engaging citizens and incorporating citizen aspirations.
Towards informing citizens, use of print media, in the form of advertisements in newspaper, and electronic ads on TV was conducted by all cities. City level talks by Mayors, Commissioners, Ministers etc. were delivered as TV interviews, live shows and radio talk shows to make citizens aware of the importance of their participation and to educate them about the means through which they can engage in the process. The outreach strategy was assessed in the SCP format. Solapur explained the smart city guidelines on all the engagement platforms to create a sense of ownership among the citizens and to foster responsible citizen engagement. The city further educated the entire staff strength of city administration and directed them to spread the positive aspects of the Smart City Mission among the citizens with whom they interact on daily basis.
Following the creation of the buzz around the smart cities mission, cities engaged citizens to identify their aspirations for the city. Most of the cities created online and offline platforms where citizens were invited to identify priority sectors. This was done both in an open ended manner, through several competitions and discussions, as well as in a close ended format by seeking citizens’ priorities from a set of predefined options identified by cities based on expert opinion. Different cities deployed different methods to capture the true essence of its citizens. Understanding the diversity of the population in the city, Kakinada Municipal Corporation (KMC) with the support of local MLAs formed three teams to effectively reach out to the maximum number of citizens. The first team handled offline outward face of engagement through direct interactions with various groups across the city in the form of focus groups, interviews. and coordinated with media and also conducted several competitions and surveys. The second team handled the online outward face with ICT based citizen connect programmes. The third team called the ‘Janmabhoomi’ committees comprised of 5-6 local residents from each ward. These committees adopted method of participatory micro planning for incorporating smart proposals by meeting and interacting with citizens.
Citizens’ opinion were gathered from the engagement exercise in form of votes, rankings, survey forms, written submissions, drawings, essays etc. These aspiration were discussed with experts and other relevant stakeholders and analysed to develop the vision for the city. City visions are a manifestation of citizen aspirations. Coimbatore followed a structured approach to incorporate citizens’ inputs. It ensured a good mix of both participatory and representative decision making with its three-pronged approach.
- Review of all crowd-sourced inputs for specific ideas and suggestions along with a key-word search to distil
- Identification of top vision themes and perceived performance on services through the citizen pulse poll
- Brainstorming with core group and city officials to crystallise vision, incorporating these inputs. Based on
these three steps, the city obtained top vision themes and performance of services in the city. The priority themes from citizen pulse poll were comprehensively reflected in the vision statement and in the strategic focus areas.
2. Identifying Area Based and Pan City Proposal
Citizen engagement in area based proposal is given more weightage compared to the pan city proposal considering the challenge of seeking opinion of maximum citizens for development of one area in the city. The challenge was identifying area which creates maximum impact either in terms of population directly influenced, scope of
replicability, addressal of critical issues of the city or any such parameter which makes the selected area the best choice for transformation to a smart area. Pan city solutions were more or less identified based on the city’s visioning exercise and hence given less weightage.
Area Based Development: City vision guided the overall proposals in area based development too. Cities proposed to encompass maximum number of the essential features defined by smart city guidelines in their area based development. With some clarity on proposals from the essential features and the city vision, the challenge here was the selection of the right area and right model of development. While some cities sought direct citizen opinion in identifying the model and some other cities identified the model of development based on expert opinions, all the cities involved citizens directly in selecting the area for area based proposal. This was done in a close ended format after cities identified a list of potential areas. The involvement in some cities were limited to simple votes which citizens cast for areas based on their own understanding, some other cities took great care to make citizens take informed decisions by putting forth scenarios of each of the selected are to citizens. Kochi predefined a four stage methodology for identifying the area development proposal.
The stages were,
Stage 1 – City profiling and citizen consultations,
Stage 2 – Reconnaissance survey,
Stage 3 – Identification of options for ABP and
Stage 4 – Selection of the area.
Three options were provided by the council based on extensive city profiling exercise. The final selection was based on multiple criteria’s which include alignment with Citizen Priorities and City Vision (20%), Considerable Economic and livelihood impact (15%), Inclusiveness (15%), Maximum impact w.r.t number of beneficiaries (20%), Innovative and building on the unique strengths of the city ( 15%) and Readiness of plan/ projects (15%), along with citizens choice from the options for area for ABP.
While vision statements is defined as the overall strategy of SCP, area based proposal is the manifestation of the vision in form of projects in the selected area of the city. As mentioned earlier, the challenge in citizen engagement for the area based development was the selection of the area. Considering the possibility of all citizens choosing areas of their residence for area based development, cities engaged in multiple layers of engagement to select the area. It included indirect engagement through discussion with stakeholders, urban planners, experts across various sectors and citizen representatives in addition to direct engagement with citizens. The area thus selected is found to be suitable to be transformed to a smart area for its replicability, impact, ease of execution in addition to citizens aspirations. Ahmedabad took care to incorporate the opinions of citizens in identifying projects within ABD in addition to selection of area for ABD. Based on the citizen interactions and development plan, the area was selected from four options. The projects in the area were chosen based on interactions with slum dwellers and NGOs in addition to other citizens. Elected representatives identified poverty alleviation, eradication of open defecation, improving health conditions and providing better education facilities as concerns of highest priority. The identified project in ABD targets the multiple issues of accessibility, public transit and solution of traffic issues in key parts of the city through transit oriented development as well as in-situ redevelopment of slum-areas utilising planning interventions such as high FSI, installation of smart features etc., all of which focus towards solving the issues identified by citizens and citizen representatives.
Pan City Proposal: The pan city proposal for the city is strongly related to the city’s vision and focus areas identified by citizens. Since they are meant to be ICT based, city authorities engaged with experts in the sectors to identify ICT solutions to the key issues highlighted by citizens. Multi-layered engagement strategy was deployed in identifying pan city proposal as well. Informed decision making was undertaken in Surat for selection of PCP. The city engaged its citizens in three webinars on eight topics and fourteen seminars on twenty topics related to smart city. This positively influenced the citizens decision making for selecting pan city proposals. A technology fair for five consecutive days was conducted exhibiting various smart solutions. This, in addition to educating the citizens, also enabled a lot of one-on-one interaction of citizens with providers of smart solution. Cities selected PCP on the basis of the issues highlighted by citizens during the visioning exercise. From these major issues, cities identified the key ones and developed ICT based solutions for it. The two pan city proposals in Ludhiana are Smart E-rickshaws and GIS enabled integrated information system. These two were selected based on comprehensive engagement with citizens, elected representatives and urban planners and experts. E-rickshaw was proposed based on citizens’ aspirations to de-pollute Ludhiana.
Though citizen participation in promoting e-governance got a low priority in citizen rankings, it emerged as a major
requirement during focus group discussions.
3. Implementation Plan
The third round of citizen engagement is about informing the final plan to the citizens. This round required cities to
publicise the SCP along with its implementation and financial plan. Cities shared their SCP through various means – on city websites, through MyGov portal etc. Some cities went back and revised the plan based on the comments they received. While many cities published their draft smart city plan online on MyGov portal and city websites, Jaipur in addition, conducted direct engagement in MyGov portal as well as indirect engagement through stakeholder meetings, informal discussions and ward councillors meetings even in round 3. It received 2107 suggestions on Draft Proposal from this round.
Qualitative Aspects in Citizen Engagement
Inclusion and outreach are two indicators that define the quality of an activity. Even when an excellent strategy and wide range of methods of engagement are deployed and citizen views are incorporated in preparation of a plan, success of the process depends on whether, captured as the citizen’s voice is indeed the citizens’ aspiration. Inclusion in citizen engagement depends on whether all sections of the society have been represented in the engagement process and their concerns have been addressed appropriately. The profiling of the city is the basis for selection of appropriate techniques and the target groups for the engagement strategy. The detailed demographic profile of the city helps identify various groups of people whose aspirations for their city may varry. This profiling is necessary so as to identify the target groups for engagement and also to ensure representation of these different groups in the different rounds of engagement process. Based on this, some cities took special care to involve all sections of population, individually and as a group. Most of the cities though are observed to have gone only for the
obvious sections of society and thus have missed the pulse of the city. Inclusion of different sections of population was best done in Solapur. Focus group discussions in the city engaged Councillors, Members of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly, the elderly, women, engineers, architects, commercial and industrial associations, resident welfare groups – Rotary Club and lion’s Club, nongovernmental organization for disabled and blind, city police department, pilgrims walking to Tuljapur from city, tourists visiting Siddeshwar temple and its Management Trust, hawkers, road dwellers, street vendors, unemployed workers from closed textile mills, social group of Gujarati Mitra Mandal, Maheshweri Society, Kutchhi Samaj, slum residents of shashtri nagar and Gandhinagar slums, auto
drivers, traffic police, industrialists, professors from MBA, B.ED college, builders association, chamber of commerce and social welfare foundations.
Outreach depends, to a great extent, on the modes engagement used by a city. Different modes are suited to different sections of population. It is therefore required of cities to understand its character and develop and deploy modes which can make their outreach efficient and effective. Some of the lighthouse cities have done this reasonably well. In Jabalpur, a city known as “Sanskardhani”, the different cultural activities are an integral part of the city. Towards sensitizing the citizens, a series of events such as “Narmada Maha Aarti”, “Havan”, Rock Show for youths, Concert by Rahat Indori, Smart Yoga, Bhajan Sandhya etc. were conducted. These helped people to know more and become partners in the process of making Jabalpur a Smart City. Use of MyGov portal by Udaipur, Outreach by Indore, Innovative methods of engagement by Bhopal, Inclusion of city special groups in Devanagere and New Delhi in identifying pan city solutions are other highlights of efforts taken by cities for engaging their citizens.
The smart cities competition mandated and motivated the cities to engage its citizens in the planning process. Using traditional methods such as ward meetings, one-on-one interactions, focus group discussions, etc. and contemporary online methods such as use of social media and other online platforms, the cities made efforts to reach out to large segments of population. As discussed earlier, sustained and dedicated efforts by some cities by way of structured and thoughtful frameworks brought out the true essence of participatory planning in the lighthouse cities. It can be seen that all cities revisited their approach to involve citizens. Unlike in earlier exercises of planning where citizens were involved in the discussion very late and with no motivation to give suggestions, in preparation of smart city
proposals, city leaders were able to create interest by engaging citizens right from the beginning to the end, thereby bringing out a dedicated participation.
Though within the small duration of four months, the first cycle of competition created an attitude shift towards involving citizens in planning. Going beyond citizen consultation as in previous approaches, cities actually engaged the citizens and prepared demand driven proposals. However, it is necessary that the engagement continue beyond preparation to implementation of proposals as well. With no mandates or scores assigned for implementation, it is at this stage that the true commitment of cities to their citizens can be seen. Along with engagement of citizens in implementation of SCPs in lighthouse cities, the second cycle of competition is also looked forward to with great expectations to continue the positive aspects while bridging the gaps in the first cycle.
OECD. (2001). Citiizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-Making. OECD.