| ||organisation: Câmara Municipal do Porto|
product: O’ Porto Master Plan – online public discussion
type of biz: urban and regional planning
what: recently, the Municipality of Oporto (Câmara Municipal do Porto - CMP) introduced a new public service enabling a geo-referenced discussion of the local Master Plan (Plano Director Municipal - PDM) to take place through the Internet. This innovative approach led to broader citizen participation and a significant media impact.
why: one of the main aims was to increase participation and dialogue between different departments within the same intervention area, as well as with the population and their collective organisations. The idea was to create a complementary way to support public intervention during the legal three-month period of discussion.
how: single citizens (or organisations, enterprises, etc.) at home or in the office were easily able to send their opinions and disagreements about the main rules of the PDM to the hall services. All this was realised through a consultative process on urban and regional planning joined with the implementation of information and communications technology and systems, directly involved in the decision making process. The priorities of this initiative were as follows:
participatory debate by a large number of users, and publishing the initiative in several media;
allow citizens to access information with great facility and comfort, through the Internet;
24 hour availability;
on-line debates with the City Hall board;
quicker answers from City Hall services to the citizens (as they are less formal than the traditional ones).
partners: the forum was the result of a partnership between CMP Board and INESC Porto, and is a component of the expanded electronic services that Oporto City Hall plans to launch for its citizens. Technical co-ordination of the project was the responsibility of the Information System Department of CMP. The Urban Planning Department was responsible for the thematic contents and on-line responses to the citizens. This project was totally financed by CMP.
sustainability features: because access was done electronically via Internet (in asynchronous mode), geographical and time restrictions weren’t an issue, thus encouraging a broader participation in the discussion of the PDM in a more comfortable way. The programme included a double innovation component: from a political point of view regarding the enlarged discussion of PDM, and from a technological point of view, by integrating GIS technologies with forum technologies, making it possible to associate each message or comment with a precise location on the map.
We feel that this is an excellent example of how a clever (and politically committed) use of new media can play a major role in shortening the distance between local administrators and citizens. It’s an idea that can be ‘purchased’ by both governing bodies and community activists. As a tool for engineering change, it fulfils a goal that is shared throughout the world: building sustainable cities that will be easier and lovelier to live in.