Responsive Cities Challenge Co-creation Workshop
ODD recently hosted its two-day workshop for the Responsive Cities Challenge. The aim of the Responsive Cities Challenge was to encourage developers, designers, researchers and entrepreneurs to use available open data from various cities across South Africa to develop applications, stories, and visualisations that can help residents work better with local government.
Between September and November 2016, participants had a chance to work with city representatives, technical mentors, other teams and ODI (Open Data Institute) specialists to build out their value proposition and workable prototypes. Winners of the competition would receive cash awards, incubation and/or seed funding up to R300,000 to develop their solutions further.
Durban — Day 1
Participants very eager to crack on the day with confidence bubbling over with enthusiasm.
To kick start us off was a warm introduction by Briony Phillips and Tom Hunter, Innovation Specialist from The Open Data Institute who would lead the open data dialogue and the various needs for greater engagement with open data.
We had a variety of specialists focusing on the four main pillars of the challenge, they included:
- Amanda Mathe — sustainability and digital media fundi
- Franklin Mzimela — design thinking and creative in UI/UX fields
- Simba Sarawadano — technology innovation
- Matimba Ngwenya — pitch coach and brandpreneur (brand entrepreneur)
Durban — Day 2
Having realised that work that would be done over the two-day campaign and realising the need to up the ante, the teams wasted no time in diving into last minute preparations for pitch day.
Matimba Ngwenya, Durban’s “Brandpreneur” and serial entrepreneur who specialises in pitch training gave each of the teams quick-fire, high impact individual notes to delivering a meaningful pitch to judges. This part of the training boot camp is important as it prepares the entrepreneurs how to succinctly communicate their ideas to the judges.
Participants demonstrated a keen understanding of the task at hand: citizen-driven solutions that promote accountability and responsiveness both from the City proper and the city as a place.
One such idea was from Dr. Mikhail Peppas, who through his personal travel is solving the issue of identity: Mikhail that Durban thinks about building its own structure to incite cultural heritage and identity. This comes from the power of identity through the Eiffel Tower in Paris; The Empire State Building in New York or The Sydney Opera House in Australia.
The idea of a pronounced city identity sparking civic pride and accountability is a charming one as a key social cohesion tool.
The cultural and creative industry is a deep characteristic of Durban’s identity and is one of the city’s enabling industries as an omnipresent and agnostic phenomena that cuts across language barriers, religious and cultural beliefs. With this in mind, innovation in Durban is characterised by its people’s creative prowess. We are slowly seeing the intersection of technology and the creative industries with an enabling marine economy as the underpinning factor.
Jima, a startup founded by Keith and Zanele encompasses the above: a mindful blend of tourism, culture, heritage and urbanism. They aim to take running tours of the city and painting the minds of tourists imagination with the rich Durban heritage.
Use of data
Open data advocacy, our overarching mission as ODD, is an arena that is in its infancy in Durban with a bulk of the participants having little to no understanding of the power of open data, it’s tools, it’s influence and it’s accessibility.
The startups experienced problems of incorporating open data in their product design and development processes outside of citing tools as primary resource tools. Matthew Adendorff, technology lead at ODD communicated the need to add onto the value chain of open data as none of the groups explored the uses of some of the data streams they would be using.
Entrepreneurship education in Durban is a value stream that needs intervention by many stakeholders in the local ecosystem using a multi-pronged approach. Many of the teams did not scratch beneath the surface of traditional revenue streams and employing powerful social innovation models in social ventures.
There is a great scope to solving the education problem which we hope to contribute to as Codebridge in 2017 together with learnings of our incubation programme we held earlier in the year.
Notes on approach for the challenge in future
Design thinking approach
The model of startup competitions was celebrated as a tool to spark creativity and get multidisciplinary skills to tackle tough problems. Over time members of the civic technological community have become frustrated at the model’s inability to develop the ideas post the engagement, create lasting solutions and the inability to innovate the model itself.
To this end, it becomes important to view campaigns such as this as a part of the broader development cycle of solutions in society. As Codebridge, we are exploring resilient models that harness creativity in short sprints with lasting impacting.
Codebridge is forming compelling and meaningful partnerships (ODI, Innovate Durban, The Makerspace Foundation, Immedia) with talented social movements in the technology innovation space and is exploring ways in which we can combine our efforts. We are toying with the idea that Responsive Cities Challenge to form part of a broader programme.
Nkululeko Mthembu is ODD Codebridge Lead , A young pioneer peering over the intersection of technology and ethnology.