New toolkit to help smart cities be more accessible
A new toolkit has been launched to help cities implement smart city programmes that benefit all citizens, including people with disabilities and older persons.
The toolkit is a result of the Smart Cities for All initiative led by G3ict (Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs) and World Enabled, with the support of Microsoft.
A survey of more than 250 experts worldwide, conducted as part of the toolkit, found that 60 percent of them feel that smart cities are failing persons with disabilities and older persons. Only 18 percent of the experts were aware of a smart city that is using ICT accessibility technical standards.
“Our discussions with city CIOs worldwide tell us that once they become more aware of this digital inclusion issue, of disability and accessible ICTs, they are strongly interested in addressing it–but they also know they need help and guidance in doing so,” James Thurston, G3ict’s Vice President for Global Strategy and Development, told Cities Today during the launch at Smart Cities NYC 2017. “As part of our new toolkit, we have created the smart cities for All Database of Solutions for Digital Inclusion to help solve that very problem.”
While the research confirmed that cost is a barrier for the global south it was not listed as a main barrier from experts more broadly.
“The biggest barrier to making a cities digital services accessible is the lack of awareness,” explained Dr Victor Pineda, President of World Enabled and Co-Chair, Persons with Disabilities, on the General Assembly of Partners. “Cities that do incorporate ICT accessibility end up benefiting in surprising ways, such as lowering the cost of localising content, as well as maintaining or updating their website.”
The toolkit contains a model accessible ICT procurement policy and an inventory of ICT accessibility technical standards, a database of smart city solutions and a communication tool that presents the benefits of ICT accessibility.
Six strategies are highlighted in the toolkit which Thurston believes need to be implemented if cities are to make real progress toward digital inclusion. These include:
Provide direct technical assistance to smart cities
Expand tools available to smart cities
Evangelise ICT accessibility at a global scale
Increase capacity via training and knowledge sharing
Drive accessible technology innovation in smart cities solutions
Change the global narrative
As Thurston and Pineda now move into phase two of their work, they will look to build additional strategic partnerships to support direct technical assistance to cities.
Pineda added: “In order to ensure that ICT accessibility is deeply embedded into these emerging norms, partnering with multilateral institutions and international NGOs engaged in smart cities work is critically important.”