Date Published: July 28, 2017, 3:22 p.m.
ith the aim to enhance transparency and citizen participation in public administration, the municipality of Porto Alegre created PoAdigital, a working unit with the mission to coordinate the municipality’s online communication and to increase the efficiency of the interactions with the community using SMART technologies, in 2013. The flagship project of the municipality is DataPoA, a program based on Open Data that provides specific and detailed data on mobility, health, education, environment, public budgets, tourism, businesses and urban property, among others, to the public. The aim of DataPoA is to involve the population in the services provided by the city and to enhance the development of SMART solutions to urban problems based on the information provided on the platform in order to improve the quality of municipal services. Data gathered on DataPoA can be used as primary source for hackers, students, developers, entrepreneurs, and businessperson who are interested in creating online platforms, apps and softwares that works towards improving the quality of life in the city. In this way, DataPoa seeks to incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship, resulting in the creation of new businesses (startups). Since 2013, the municipality has organized several Hackatons that resulted in the creation of more than 30 apps based on 60 data sets. Among others, these apps allow to localize busses in the city region, determine their occupation rate, identify the closest health post, and to plan journeys by car, public transport or bicycle.
The current context of digital revolution, the World Wide Web and social networks are at the core of a profound transformation in the way people access information and communicate. For local governments this means that, on the one hand, they have to respond to citizen demands for an increased performance in the provision of public services that are increasingly comparing the public and the private sector. On the other hand, public administrations worldwide are increasingly considering ICTs and online services as allies in their work towards improving their accountability and performance towards citizens. Governments all over the world rely on the “Smart City” concept to enhance innovation to their administration by introducing more efficient solutions and faster communication that allow for sharing ideas, information and to enhance collaborative, plural and democratic ways of interaction. The city of Porto Alegre, internationally recognized as the cradle of modern participatory budgeting and particularly committed to innovation, considers that SMART technologies offer opportunities both to improve local public service management and to reinforce communication channels with the citizens.
With the aim to enhance innovation in public policies, increase transparency and citizen participation in public management, the municipality of Porto Alegre has launched PoAdigital in 2013 as a working unity linked to the Cabinet of Social Communication. Its mission is to coordinate municipal online communication by involving transversally with other municipal organs and to seek for more efficient management solutions and ways of interacting with the citizens by making use of new technologies. PoAdigital is conceived as a creativity platform of the municipality with the main objective to connect people and to enhance collective action in different areas, such as communication, education, entrepreneurship, among others. The municipality observed an significant increase in citizen involvement in municipal government initiatives since the launch of the platform. PoAdigital works, in this sense, as an “umbrella-platform” for different digital projects, among others: #CurtindoPoA, a collaborative citizen calender; #POApp, an official city guide; the ‘Usina’ project, Laboratory for creativity in the training and empowerment of professors and students of the public education system.
The flagship project of the municipality, however, is DataPoA, launched in November 2013. DataPoA is based on an Open Data policy that provides specific and detailed information on mobility, healthcare, education, environment, municipal budgets, tourism, businesses and urban property to the public. The aim of DataPoA is to involve the population in the services provided by the city and to enhance the development of SMART solutions to urban problems and improved municipal services quality based on the information provided on the platform. Data gathered on DataPoA can be used as primary source for hackers, students, developers, entrepreneurs, and businessperson who are interested in creating online platforms, apps and softwares that works towards improving the quality of life in the city. In this way, DataPoa seeks to incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship, resulting in the creation of new businesses (startups). This should contribute to creating collaborative links between the municipal government, enterprises, developers and citizens. Since 2013, the municipality has organized several Hackatons that resulted in the creation of more than 30 apps based on 60 data sets. Among others, these apps allow to localize busses in the city region, determine their occupation rate, identify the closest health post, and to plan journeys by car, public transport or bicycle. The success of the initiative is measured by the number of solutions developed, the constant demand for access to new series of data, and also by the fact that big players such as Google and Microsoft take advantage of the DataPoA platform for some of their solutions. In the future, the municipality hopes to centralize other types of information, involving other public sector institutions and private companies, on DataPoa (for instance, data on urban railway transportation, Trensurb). According to Thiago Ribeiro, Coordinator of PoAdigital, “DataPoa is not an information portal of the municipality, but rather an information platform on the city itself; hence, the more data we can gather, the better.”
In order to implement PoAdigital, the municipality engaged in a series of partnerships with public institutions, non-governmental organization and private sector actors. The collaboration with the private sector is largely necessary given the financial, technical and human resource imitations of the municipality. These partnerships do not follow traditional Public-private-partnership lines as defined by Brazilian law, but seek to establish collaborations with local or international companies and are based on cooperation agreements, following a win-win logic. The partnerships do not involve financial resources directly, the ‘payment’ is done through the provision of data, information, access to networks, etc. From there, companies can establish their business models and identify the best way to ‘monetize’ the partnerships. According to Thiago Ribeiro, coordinator of PoAdigital, the difference between traditional and SMART PPPs is that in the latter case there is an increased opportunity to develop more ‘intelligent’ business models, identifying synergies and opportunities that do not necessarily involve direct public investment.
Among the partnerships established by the municipality, the following are worth mentioning:
According to Thiago Ribeiro, the collaboration with the private sector for technological Innovation projects in public management is necessary, but it should not be limited to the procurement of services and purchase of products of the private company by the public entity. On the contrary, the municipality should understand that it can benefit from the private sector’s expertise, but it can also offer great opportunities to local enterprises and foster the start-up sector. In this sense, Porto Alegre collaborated with a variety of companies to develop specific applications and took advantage of the infrastructure made available by Procempa, the company in charge of the city’s data processing. On the other hand, the municipality has been trying to create a culture of innovation and foster Technological entrepreneurship (by offering incentives to start-ups, collaborating with local incubators and accelerators, and with the creation of the Gaúcha Start-ups Association (AGS). In the same way, the municipality made the DataPoA platform available to actors from the private sector so they could use public data and authorized the creation of paying applications and programs based on public data, with the belief that it will help to create business and job opportunities.
The municipality of Porto Alegre attributed an initial investment of R$80,000 for preparing the infrastructure of PoAdigital, and covers the costs for human resources involved in maintenance of eight servers, representing a monthly cost of R$40,000. The principal municipal expense associated with the project, beyond wages, was linked to the contracting of a specialized consultancy for the implementation of the DataPoa portal (the consultancy had previously developed similar Open Data projects in San Francisco, in the United States). In order to guarantee the long-term viability and sustainability of the project, the municipality enacted a law that restructures municipal administration in order to create a PoAdigital unit that converts the project into a permanent public policy. This is to ensure the sustainability of the project beyond political cycles. The next step for guaranteeing sustainability is to assign an exclusive budget to PoAdigital and DataPoA.
Main results, according to the municipality of Porto Alegre, include:
The main difficulty faced by the municipality of Porto Alegre in establishing a policy of Open Data was internal resistance to technological innovation. This is, among others, due to the fact that new technologies are “invisible infrastructure” that produce less tangible results in the first place. The skepticism, mainly among municipal staff, creates barriers to investment and the recognition of initiatives. Another difficulty is linked to a limited data management culture within Brazilian municipalities, which duplicates the work of data and information storage. In order to overcome these difficulties, the internal communication process within the municipality is of crucial importance. In this case, the determination, commitment and political will of the mayor of Porto Alegre, José Fortunate, made the difference.
The municipality of Porto Alegre puts forward the following key elements to guarantee the success of a project such as PoAdigital:
Official website of DataPoA: http://datapoa.com.br/
PoAdigital portal: http://poadigital.com/
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