Crowdsourced data-gathering platforms are changing the top-down nature of how news is gathered and disseminated by placing reporting tools in the hands of citizens, allowing any individual to instantly broadcast about the situation around them. Often using mobile phone technology, these hyperlocal reporting systems not only provide real-time, location specific data, but also boost civic engagement by establishing direct channels of communication from the ground up, while helping to ensure community well-being by rapidly documenting potentially harmful incidents.
Gary Hack, who is part of a team developing a crowdsourced plan for Bogota, Colombia called MyIdealCity, believes that future of urban planning is in hyperlocal reporting. The celebrated urban planner told PSFK.com:
Sensors are fine for counting, but the best source of intelligence about what is happening on the ground is those who are actually there. Encouraging citizens to report incidents and events empowers them to take responsibility for the city.
A recent example of hyperlocal reporting is an app from the New York Police Department that provides citizens a tool to submit anonymous tips regarding crimes they have witnessed, which could work towards helping the police curb illegal activity in the city. The initiative is similar to Rio De Janeiro’s 1746 app, which offers citizens a convenient way to lodge civic complaints about issues like potholes and broken traffic lights.
Rachel Haot Sterne is Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York, and oversees programs that encourage a two way dialogue between city officials and residents which can increase civic engagement and improve cities from the ground up. Rachel told PSFK.com:
Social media in it of itself is just a channel for achieving goals. The best strategy for looking at how cities and government entities can use social media is, What are we trying to achieve on a citywide basis? What are our goals broadly? And then you work backwards and say, How can we use all these different tools at our disposal? and How can we engage the public and help them have a sense of ownership in building the future by using social media tools. So I really it’s about first, trying to identify what you want to achieve, and then working backwards using the right tools to get there.
In Mexico, a hyperlocal reporting service called Retio offers the country’s citizens a new tool to fight organized crime, corruption, theft and even traffic jams. Retio is a mobile application that allows citizens to upload photos and report on issues. Contributors use the Twitter handle that corresponds with the city they are in (e.g. @RetioMID for Mérida) and then tweet out a description of the problem and if possible, an accompanying photo.
Incidents are visualized on a map, allowing users to view what has been reported or narrow results down to specific incidents. People can also contribute to mapping each others’ entries as posts normally feature cross streets. Retio’s Twitter feeds are available in multiple cities throughout every Mexican state and the creators hope to bring it to other countries as well.
Similarly, in Kenya, the mapping platform Hatari allows people to report when and where they experience corruption or crime, and is credited with empowering the powerless powerless in the face of official corruption.
Examples of hyperlocal reporting can be found in South America as well. In Bogota, the IOT (Territorial Organization Collective Initiative) is a collaborate platform allowing citizens to participate in the construction and transformation of public space by suggesting small-scale solutions to a neighborhood’s needs or problems. Similarly, Yo digo aqui estoy (I say: here I am) is a web and mobile platform offering citizens a set of digital tools allowing them to identify cases of ongoing child labor.
Across the world, hyperlocal reporting systems are changing the top-down nature of how a city’s data is gathered and shared by using mobile phones as real-time reporting tools.