KARACHI: Citizens of Karachi now have an option of taking active part in the functioning of local government and apprising their chosen representatives of their problems and issues.

This was stated by Farhan Anwar at the closing ceremony of Project Empowered Citizens for Improved Urban Governance at a hotel on Saturday.

The project, which is completed by Shehri-Citizens For a Better Environment in collaboration with USAID, is not only aiming at empowering the citizens but also aiming at facilitating government departments and agencies in provision of timely and effective services to the people.

Explaining details of the project, Mr Anwar, who is an urban planner and the project manager, said they had taken help from information and communication technology (ICT) to facilitate interaction between citizens and their elected local government representatives. “This way the citizens find themselves involved in the decision-making process and play an active part for the betterment of governance without getting into confrontation with authorities,” he added.

Project aims to use IT to help resolve civic issues

“We have developed a web portal, an eco-map of the city, mobile apps and a handbook from where citizens can find any information, raise their problems and seek their solutions from the government.

“The web portal contains details of the systems of government in the city, its people and resources, economy, climate, trade, population, etc. It even carries details about KMC, KWSB, SBCA, Sindh Solid Waste Management Board and various other departments.

“The mobile app, Civic Hackathon, records location of its user. It helps the user inform the government of any civic issue immediately with its location. The user can even upload a picture of the problem.

“The handbook carries material in regard to the city government and is easy to read and understand. All laws and legislations are explained in simple terms.

“It is critical that the citizens are well aware of city government’s functions, its process of legislation, institutional framework, and avenues for ensuring social accountability etc.

“Orienting relevant government officials and elected representatives about these products, and disseminating information about the same among the public is also our mission,” Mr Anwar further said.

Regarding context of the project, he said there were so many issues before them such as garbage disposal, sewerage and broken roads when they started it. They narrowed down the problems keeping in view the time and money that they had at their disposal.

“Project deliverables have now been successfully finalised after almost a year of hard work.”

Discussing the challenges, he said: “Lack of awareness on the part of the citizens was the topmost issue. They did not know how the city was run and managed. We even found segregated data which was outdated. It was not possible for us to find information at one place and had to run from pillar to post for the purpose. Even up-to-date data about population was not available.

“We tried our best to take all citizens on board so that they participate alongside the government. This technique was successfully used by Brazil.”

Maliha Nasir, Fizza Inayat and Muneeb Naveed Khan, on the occasion, showed a brief movie about the city they had filmed.

Sakina Hassan displayed the richness of the city she captured in her lens.

Munaza Gulzar and Mariam Vadria demonstrated their app called Livelib, which was created to revive public libraries and civic spaces in the city.

On the occasion, video message of Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair was played who appreciated the efforts of Shehri. He hoped the app will improve lives of the people.

Local government’s monitoring and evaluation director Fahim Junejo said there had always been a need for a platform which could apprise the government of public issues, and there was also a need for a platform to solve those issues.

“I congratulate you from the local government department,” he added.

Amra Javed, member of Shehri’s managing committee, narrated a brief history of the organisation.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2018

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