Ramallah is deploying smart technologies to engage with citizens and improve quality and accessibility of services.
The Smart City, Freedom through Technology project aims to enhance communication with the local community, improve remote service delivery, provide information to the public on activities and public events in the municipality, and gather feedback on service delivery.
Through crowdsourced and remote data gathering around usage patterns for public spaces, the city intends to extend the types of assets and services included in the Ramallah Smart City platform. It will include mapping and promotion of cultural sites, and a social platform where users can communicate experiences of the city’s assets with one another.
The project has shown impressive results in different aspects including governance and transparency, quality and accessibility of services, responsiveness to emergency situations, education, tourism, and cultural activities.
Ramallah is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 km north of Jerusalem at an average elevation of 880 meters above sea level. Since the initial establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the city has become the cultural, commercial and governmental hub of the West Bank and experienced rapid growth.
However, political factors prevent the maximum utilization of technologies such as 3G or 4G networks, not allowing Ramallah citizens to gain proper access to stable internet services, including e-government services. To counteract this, in 2013, the Ramallah municipality launched the Smart City, Freedom through Technology project with the objective of establishing a smart city to improve communication with and services for all citizens.
Activities that have been implemented:
- · Wifi services are accessible at most primary streets through fiber optic network solutions.
- · In Public places including municipal buildings, libraries, parks, gardens and entertainments centers, free network connection and municipal services are offered, enabling residents and tourists to use wifi.
- ·Installation of cameras at major intersections across the city with live streaming help in security and weather emergencies.
- ·As Google Earth is restricted in the West Bank, the project provides an alternative for navigation.
- · all 14 municipal facilities have been connected together using the fiber network,
- ·Technology Infrastructure for technology-based teaching-learning system in all seven public schools in the city.
- ·supplying one of these schools with equipment and services to become the first “Smart School” among Palestinian public schools,
- ·several interactive GIS (geographic information systems) applications have been developed.
- ·detailed project plans for Enterprise Resource Planning Software has been approved to convert the municipal services to e-services.
Through the project, Ramallah municipality is able to revolutionize its data management system, and has significantly improve quality of services and innovatively overcome challenges posed by the complex political and security context under which citizens of Ramallah live. Internal policies and procedures have been significantly reengineered to be compatible with the new databases and technological tools. For example, each department at the municipality has an application on the GIS which has become part of work flow and documentation procedures. The municipality now plans to only accept applications that are electronic, in order to facilitate processing of application and tracking and timely response. Other GIS applications are used to report incidents and complaints and track them.
The second phase of the project is underway and includes spreading the wi-fi coverage to all streets of the city including sub streets and utilizing more applications and tools to increase effectiveness and quality of services (for example installing sensors on waste containers for fast collection and recycling of filled ones). The project will also continue to encourage the private sector and entrepreneurs to create innovative applications and initiatives.
This project is an independent initiative by the Ramallah Municipality, with the support of the Ministry of Telecommunication & Information Technology (MTIT) and the Ministry of Local Government (MOLG)
The project is a positive example of public-private partnership and collaboration between the central and local governments, experts from academia, PITA (Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies, the private telecommunications sector and international donors, GIZ and USAID, were involved in providing financial support.
The project has achieved significant measurable impact, more than what was initially anticipated. This can be demonstrated through the number of hits on the municipality website and the increasing number of citizens using e-services.
There has been an increase in private sector investment in the technology sector, as demonstrated by the number of applications developed by private sector companies and individual investors relying on some aspects of the project.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of citizens participating and attending public events organized by the municipality (largely due to the advertising campaign of the project)
The technical infrastructure provided by the project made it possible for the municipal council to broadcast its weekly meeting, allowing citizens and stakeholders to watch the entire session and thus increase transparency of the work of the council.
The implementation of the project has encountered tremendous challenges and continues to do so. A major obstacle is the outdated legal framework applicable in the West Bank for example, the lack of e-signature, cyber-crimes and e-payment laws. Moreover, the Israeli Occupation prevents the maximum utilization of technologies (3G/ LTE advanced, Fiber between cities, Google Maps) and the importation of certain technological equipment
MOLG (Ministry of Local Government) is supportive of the project, adopting the GIS component as a national model and is working on disseminating it to other municipalities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under a national GIS initiative.
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