Smartphones give us louder voices in shaping our future city

If intense creative mental energy escaped the mind in lightning bolts, David Rauch would be downright dangerous.

A business analyst in the City of Edmonton’s Sustainable Development’s Urban Planning and Environment section, David’s passion is the integration of digital technology into urban planning.

“I’m passionate about making cities better places by using information technology – essentially the smartphone – to connect planners with the people they serve, to bring citizens deeper into the process of making a city look and feel like a great place to live,” he says.

“We all want a more animated city, one in which the very act of living here is exciting in itself.”

Lucky for us, David’s girlfriend pursued her chemistry doctorate in Edmonton. David, a Chicagoan with a Masters in public administration focused on the marriage of public admin and digital technology, followed, and found his place with the City!

Many of the projects David’s working on in his regular job are in various stages of development. For now, they’re primarily focused on making more of the City’s already-public data available in more user-friendly formats.

“For example, we’ve traditionally published zoning maps, land use maps and construction permit data separately as PDFs, or in print. But if we can create searchable, downloadable online databases containing information like that, it would allow, for example, a businessperson to much more accurately analyse potential new business locations.”

David Rauch says the engaged citizen’s smartphone is a priceless tool enabling more effective citizen involvement in decisions about their future cty’s look and feel.

David Rauch says the engaged citizen’s smartphone is a priceless tool enabling more effective citizen involvement in decisions about their future cty’s look and feel.

David is a co-founder of Open Edmonton, a private group of brilliant ‘geeks and hackers’ who collaborate on new apps that strike their fancy. They’ll develop, test and pitch them – usually at no profit – to organizations like businesses and government. David says the group welcomes new tech-savvy members, people looking to enrich their private time with exciting projects.

You’d be amazed what he sees in Edmonton’s future.

Here are just a few possibilities, resulting from voluntary digital citizen involvement through groups like Open Edmonton, or through City projects:

● Neighbourhood posters asking residents to text their vote, a la American Idol, about what kind of development they want on vacant land (restaurant, park, convenience store?)
● Smartphone GPS apps enabling planners to track real-time bicycle usage patterns
● Apps that use smartphone GPS and accelerometers to auto-report pothole locations and severity
● Smartphone apps that filter out everything but ambient noise levels, producing a real-time map showing where noise is above limits and enabling extra traffic/noise enforcement to be employed
● Cheap technology enabling citizens to participate in real-time air quality sampling over wide areas
● Creating an app to allow anyone to contribute to an interactive map showing the location of all forms of public art

He’s only just begun; there are a lifetime’s worth of lightning bolts to come!

 

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