Smart City, Freedom through Technology project

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Main actors

Local Government

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2014

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.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2016.

Ramallah, Palestine

Size and population development
According to a Ramallah Municipality 2020 study, the city has a population of 71,880 in an area of 18,600 km2 (this represents 1.37.4% of the total Palestinian population). The city is surrounded by 80 communities and refugee camps, and the total number of inhabitants of Ramallah city governorate is approximately 370,000 people). Ramallah is witnessing a very rapid population growth, in 2018 the city's population was 65,696 which results in an annual population growth of 4.1%.

Population composition
Based on population estimates prepared by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017, there are approximately 13.5 million Palestinians in the world, of whom 5.1 million reside in the State of Palestine. 2.59 million are male and 2.51 million are female. The estimated population of the West Bank was 3.05 million, including 1.55 million males and 1.50 million females. The population of the Gaza Strip for the same year was estimated at 2.05 million, including 1.04 million males and 1.01 million females. The percentage of individuals in the age group (0-14 years) in the middle of the year 2020 is estimated at 38% of the total population in Palestine, with 36% in the West Bank and 41% in the Gaza Strip. It is noted that the percentage of individuals aged 65 years and over has decreased, as their percentage was estimated in mid-2020 at 3% in Palestine, by 4% in the West Bank and 3% in the Gaza Strip. The number of Palestinian communities in the West Bank that the Israeli occupation intends to annex reached 43, distributed as follows: 10 communities in the northern West Bank, 30 communities in the middle of the West Bank, and 3 communities in the southern West Bank, where the number of Palestinians was estimated at 112,427 individuals with a total area of about 477.3 km2.

Main functions
Ramallah, a key city in the West Bank, situated 16 Km north from Jerusalem and 64 Km from the Mediterranean seashore, is located at 860 m on the central mountain ranges of Palestine that extends from southern Galilea down to Hebron through Jerusalem. Thus its geographical location, on the road that traverses the central mountain range from Nablus to Jerusalem, has given it a commercial significance since the middle ages. The city is known for its vibrant cultural life and art activities and its very heterogeneous population forming a diverse young cultural cosmopolitan city. In 1993 Oslo agreements led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nevertheless Ramallah, as all Palestinian territories still remain under Israeli Occupation where PA control is restrained. As such Ramallah has no control over its natural resources despite its rich water resources. Following the establishment of the PA, Ramallah became the temporary seat of the Government of the State of Palestine, thus witnessing a rapid growth where only in 7 years the city doubled its built area. The rapid growth formed a challenge for the municipality to upgrade its infrastructure to fit its built landscape.

Main industries / business
The commercial sector: Commerce is one of the biggest economic assets to the city. Being a central location in the West Bank, Ramallah attracts a lot of people from all around the country for retail shopping. The Number of restaurants per capita in Ramallah is one of the highest in the world, and other commercial places don’t fall far behind. Industry: Ramallah has a small niche of light industry such as the manufacture of sanitary paper, cardboard, furniture, foodstuffs, olive, soap, aluminium, pharmaceuticals and some handicrafts and traditional goods are common in Ramallah. The industrial zone takes up to 4.2 % of the total city area. The Tertiary industry plays t a central role in the city’s economy as the majority of service companies in the country lay in Ramallah. For example, one of the telecommunication companies is the biggest employer in the country (after the government). This augments the city’s employment opportunity and demand and rises minimum wage above the national average.

Political structure
The Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate is one of 16 governorates of Palestine. It covers a large part of the central West Bank, on the northern border of the Jerusalem Governorate. According to PCBS, the Ramallah and al-Bireh governorate has 78 localities, including cities, municipalities, villages, councils, neighbourhoods and refugee camps.

Administrative structure
Ramallah became a city in 1908. Since then, the city has witnessed 25 different municipal councils. Unstable political events led the Municipality to undergo 5 different regimes. In 1967 Ramallah with the rest of the West Bank was occupied by Israeli forces. The city was governed by a direct military force and the Municipal council was s inactive for six years. Ramallah Municipality is the first point of contact between the community and the Palestinian Government and is responsible for providing essential services and other government functions under the Palestinian Local Authorities Law No. (1) of 1997, including water and electricity supplies, street and town planning, and issuing building permits. The core institutional support structure supporting the Municipality at the central level is the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG) and its Directorates.

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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Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation

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