Data Innovation and Participatory Design: A Mash-up for Urban Development

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Last weekend Pulse Lab Jakarta hosted a session at the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum for Youth 2015 called Creating Cities for Everyone with Data Innovation and Participatory Design. A few notes from the event follow.

Pimping Your City

The session highlighted the emergence of bottom-up data capture and participatory design processes that are empowering communities and better informing urban planning. But to attract the attention of the youthful forum participants we transformed Creating Cities for Everyone with Data Innovation and Participatory Design into #PimpMyCity.

The session was structured as discussion between the five diverse speakers with the audience raising questions through the hashtag on social media. We were graced by the company of:

Creating Cities with Everyone

When speaking of creating a city for everyone, there is a tendency for a 'planning elite' to take the lead. In a collaborative process, we shift from 'designing a city for everyone’ to 'creating a city with everyone’, combining both top-down and bottom-up approaches to understand the complex and evolving city system.

Mizah highlighted the complementarity of ethnography and data innovation, adding that stories offer meaning and context to the trends captured by the data. But, alas, it is not always easy to combine datasets, because, as Dr. Ying highlighted, big data is rarely open and open data is rarely big.

Gugun pointed out that open source and affordable technologies are empowering communities to develop highly relevant and granular data on their shared spaces and lived experiences. This is helping to address the data quality issues afflicting governments which was highlighted by Oshean.

Ahmad added that the validity of ‘bottom-up’ data collection processes is time and time again being demonstrated by urban communities, but that regulatory regimes make it difficult for governments to use the data. The audience agreed.

Empowerment is Key

Alas, it is hard to capture the depth of the discussion in a blog and we have certainly not done the speakers justice. But the questions and ideas flowing on Twitter was evidence that youth are more than ready to be engaged in collaborative processes of urban development.

The key point of the session was to highlight that while many different approaches to blending data innovation and participatory design exist within this space, the objective is the same: creating informed and empowered citizens and communities, both capable of better understanding themselves and of influencing decision-making processes.


Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Government of Australia.

Top image: The panel relaxing after the discussion [Mellyana Frederika/UN Global Pulse, 2015]

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