Gliwice and Poznań are two Polish cities participating in the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC). Both are celebrated for their historical beauty – with Gliwice being one of the oldest cities in Upper Silesia in southern Poland whilst Poznań is well known for its Renaissance Old Town. Despite their strong historic features, the cities are now both looking to modernise through smart city strategies.
Both cities have therefore chosen to focus on the Citizen participation and digitisation of public administration thematic track during their ICC journeys. ICC spoke with representatives from the cities - Katarzyna Kobierska, Leader of ICC Team, the Head of City Development Department in Municipal Office in Gliwice and Olga Dzieciątkowska, Digital Project Specialist for Poznań City Hall and ICC Project Manager – to find out about their cities’ progress.
Cooperating with citizens in Gliwice
Gliwice seeks to be a city that effectively cooperates with its citizens, communicates with all local actors using clear and consistent tools and procedures and is prepared to start sharing its data in open, digital way. To achieve this vision, the three following areas have been selected as focus areas:
- A new participation approach
- Development of a participation platform
- An open data platform
1. A new participation approach
The process of developing the new participation approach involved extensive participation of citizens and stakeholders, including 20 expert groups meetings, 35 meetings with citizens (online and in person), 4 focus interviews and 4 surveys. This process gathered the material to inform the strategy and allowed different participation tools to be simultaneously tested to check their efficiency and adjust them to Gliwice’s needs. Expert groups across four fields – economy, urban planning, environment and society – were one of the most successful forms of collaboration. These groups were formed from representatives of the municipality, city units, city board, district boards, companies, universities, NGOs and citizens who were selected in open call. They were led by thematic experts who guided discussions, workshops and brainstorming sessions to define a vision and strategic and operational goals in new strategy.
- Development of a participation platform
In March 2022, Gliwice launched its participation platform which offers functionalities such as: access to civic budget, local initiatives in Gliwice, social consultations and surveys. The platform was also used as a contact point for refugees, especially in March and April 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Its flexibility meant that the platform was able to connect public units, NGOs and citizens offering help to refugees asking for support. The city plans to work on developing this platform to become more advanced.
3. An open data platform
This platform is now in its testing period and covers the data gathered by City Development Department each year. Previously this data was published in the city annual report which was only available in paper and PDF version. Now, through this platform the data is open and more accessible, it can easily be reused by other stakeholders. The scope of data will be regularly extended according to users’ needs.
“The potential end of one crisis does not guarantee a peaceful time of recovery”
Gliwice is concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic is not behind them as the threat of restrictions is still present. The last few months have proven that the potential end of one crisis (COVID-19) does not guarantee a peaceful time of recovery and further development. The war in Ukraine, changing economic conditions in Poland (growing inflation rate, unstable prices in the market, energy supply problems) and Polish government decisions on cutting cities’ income show that there are new crises and challenges to be faced. Therefore the city will prepare its organisational system to make the city more resilient. Resilience will encompass many different dimensions – infrastructural, social, environmental – meaning that a system that employs change management and crisis management will be crucial.
“An inspiring and stimulating experience”
Ms Kobierska has found the ICC initiative an inspiring and stimulating experience. The city has been able to develop very detailed work with experts on its solutions. These solutions have been enriched by the opportunity to see other cities plan and conduct their activities and learn from them. Further, the thematic experts helped the city to analyse their ideas in detail and tailor their approach. Through ICC, Gliwice has realised that many of the cities face the same problems like engaging business or youth participation in collaboration processes so the city hopes to cooperate with the ICC society to jointly develop more solutions.
Poznań’s e-services advancements
Poznań is specifically focused on its e-services, and like Gliwice its open data platform and citizen participation platform. Whilst these have seen challenges in the past couple of years such as managing the high expectations of users, they have also enjoyed good progress through numerous projects. Poznań’s digitalisation approach seeks to give as much choice as possible to its citizens. For example, whilst the goal is to offer many of the city hall services online rather than requiring physical presence, the option to attend in person is still offered.
Through an established relationship with the Supercomputing Network Centre, Poznań has already developed a digitisation transformation programme. This public institution provides mainly academic support in areas where Poznań needs further assistance. Through this partnership, some work has already begun on the open data platforms.
Another of Poznań’s main projects is called “Friendly Declarations”, this is a set of online forms that helps citizens to complete their tax returns in a quick and efficient way. The forms are supported by algorithms that guide citizens through the process so that they are unable to make mistakes. The project has benefitted many citizens and is extremely popular.
City Poznań is another of the city’s developments, this application offers useful information to citizens in their local area such as real time updates for roadworks in the city. The application works in a reciprocal way so citizens can both receive information and contribute by sharing updates like how the garbage has not been collected on their street. Citizens are further invited to contribute any ideas or initiatives they have about how to develop and improve their local areas through the application. These suggestions are sent directly to the responsible city unit or department and local district committees. It then relies on interactions from other citizens to flag popular ideas or issues through a ‘thumbs up’ functionality to the city hall.
Poznań’s lessons learnt
Poznań’s main lesson learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic was about plain language – meaning communicating in a clear and accessible way. During the pandemic, a citizen led movement called the ‘Plain language movement’ raised awareness of this issue through highlighting how inaccessible the mayor’s daily speech updates were to deaf people. Once the city realised this issue, the city worked together with the movement to look at how its work can be more inclusive. In collaboration with volunteers from the movement, the city produced a special plain language guide and started to train its workers to make communication as simple and understandable as possible. An electronic editor for official text and documents is currently under development to simplify them and make them more accessible to all citizens.
“Finding common connections with other cities was the biggest value of ICC”
When reflecting on Poznań’s experience with ICC, the networking opportunities through workshops, public sessions and peer review sessions, were greatly appreciated. Ms Dzieciątkowska expressed how “Finding common connections with other cities was the biggest value of ICC”. Through ICC, it became clear that fellow cities share similar challenges and problems and Poznań realised that it is not alone. This was motivating for the cities as solutions to these issues were shared and in some cases, it helped confirm to Poznań that it was on the right track. Finally, Poznań was grateful to its ICC Lead Expert, who had worked well with the city and offered fruitful support throughout the process.
The ICC praises both cities for their dedication and progress to digitisation and is keen to see the continued progress.