Citizen Participation in Smart Cities
: Facilitating Access through Awareness, Open Government Data, and Public Displays

Student thesis: Doc typesDocteur en Sciences


In an effort to involve citizens in decision-making, more and more governments at various levels of power around the world are implementing citizen participation initiatives. Their objective is to reach decisions that are more in line with the reality of citizens and that are therefore better accepted. Citizen participation also aims to reconnect citizens with their governments, as citizens' trust toward them has reached particularly low levels in recent years. Furthermore, the emergence of new technologies and their use in city management, driven by the smart city movement, has opened new ways of reconnecting with citizens, and has therefore contributed to the recent hype for citizen participation.
Full of promise, the road to participation however is littered with barriers, which result in citizen access to participation not reaching its full potential. On the public servants side, the main barriers are the lack of expertise and resources to properly implement citizen participation initiatives and measure their impact, and the reluctance to hand over some of their power. On the citizens' side, there are also a number of hindering factors, such as lack of interest in participation, constraints related to personal life, and the lack of expertise or information.
New technologies offer ways to reduce these barriers to citizen participation. This is the objective of this thesis, which aims to provide solutions and recommendations to help reduce barriers to participation, with a focus on barriers on the citizen's side. Specifically, this thesis focuses on three barriers that were selected from a literature review and due to their particular relevance to the context of Wallonia (Belgium). The first is the lack of awareness of participation in smart cities. The second is the difficulty of accessing usable data needed to understand the topic on which citizens are asked to participate. The third is the barrier of entry to participation methods, which makes it difficult to attract citizens who are not already involved.
Since each of these barriers covers a specific aspect of access to participation, they were studied independently. As for the first barrier, the focus was on raising awareness of citizen participation in smart cities among children aged 12-14. A workshop adapted to the school context was therefore developed, and its impact was evaluated with 299 children through 15 sessions. The workshop conduct was thoroughly documented to allow teachers to organize it with their students autonomously. Concerning the second barrier, the starting point was Open Government Data (OGD), which is a rich data source made available to citizens via online portals. Since these portals are under-used in practice, a requirement analysis was conducted to understand what citizens expect from these portals. One of their requirements, namely to have data visualizations along with the datasets, led to the development of a guide for developers to choose the best mobility data representations. Interface design recommendations for developers and data publishers were also formulated to allow the development of portals that are more adapted to citizens' expectations. Finally, regarding the third barrier, this thesis has focused on public displays and on how they can be used as a citizen participation method. The strength of public displays is that they are directly integrated into the urban landscape, and therefore free from the entry barriers that commonly used methods have. In order to encourage the adoption of this device, which is rarely used in practice, an analysis of the existing literature was carried out to highlight successful experiments conducted with public displays and their results. On this basis, several research perspectives were also opened to reinforce the usefulness of public displays as a participation method. First, citizens' expectations on their involvement in the development of services such as public displays were collected. Second, a process model was developed to help developers design adaptive public displays that can encourage interaction by adapting to changes in their environment.
la date de réponse28 oct. 2021
langue originaleAnglais
L'institution diplômante
  • Universite de Namur
SponsorsFEDER Région Wallonne
SuperviseurBruno Dumas (Promoteur), Wim Vanhoof (Président), Benoit Vanderose (Jury), Annick Castiaux (Jury), Andrew Vande Moere (Jury) & Catherine Elsen (Jury)

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