Information and Civic Activities Portal “Smart Map” (TBI0001)
Action Plan: Tbilisi, Georgia Action Plan
Action Plan Cycle: 2017
Lead Institution: “Tbilisi Municipal Services Development Agency” NCLE
Support Institution(s): Tbilisi City Hall Administration, Legal Department, Department of Environment and Green Spaces, Municipal Improvements Department, Department of Economic Development
Policy AreasCapacity Building, E-Government, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Subnational
Issue to be Addressed: As it was explained in the introductory section, access to information in Tbilisi City Hall is based on minimal legal requirements, which very often does not ensure supplying information and participation of the public. Subsequently, through absence of adequate system, often execution of requests is met with difficalties as well as issuing simple public information often requires maximum period of 10 days. Members of the public are reporting their problems via hotlines and through statements. The consideration period is 8 one month. There is no feedback and performance monitoring systemic mechanism. The citizens are participating through informal and non-proportional public councils and contest to propose their ideas for Tbilisi City Hall projects (organized by Tbilisi City Hall). Primary Objective: Increased access to all data available on Smart Map. This information in interactive format will be accessible for Tbilisi residents interested in what is going on in their place of residence. This will create pre-requisites for public to participate in governance and make informed decisions; There will be created results-orientated and accountable participation system. Tbilisi City Hall will have an obligation to respond to the City’s issues displayed in the portal in a timely manner; System will be created, which will support Tbilisi Municipality to make their decisions through public participation and based on their needs.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
1. Multi-discipline mechanism of open government and civic participation – information and civic activities portal “Smart Map”
As it was explained in the introductory section [of the action plan], access to information in Tbilisi City Hall is based on minimal legal requirements, which very often does not ensure supplying information and participation of the public. Subsequently, through absence of adequate system, often execution of requests is met with difficulties as well as issuing simple public information often requires maximum period of 10 days. Members of the public are reporting their problems via hotlines and through statements. The consideration period is one month. There is no feedback and performance monitoring systemic mechanism. The citizens are participating through informal and non-proportional public councils and contest to propose their ideas for Tbilisi City Hall projects (organized by Tbilisi City Hall)
· Increased access to all data available on Smart Map. This information in interactive format will be accessible for Tbilisi residents interested in what is going on in their place of residence. This will create pre-requisites for public to participate in governance and make informed decisions;
· There will be created results-orientated and accountable participation system. Tbilisi City Hall will have an obligation to respond to the City’s issues displayed in the portal in a timely manner;
· System will be created, which will support Tbilisi Municipality to make their decisions through public participation and based on their needs.
1. Approvement of technical task for updating and modernization of multi-functional web portal and existing municipal interactive map, and timetable (by January 2017)
2. Development of technical functions and content of the portal, agreement with interested parties, piloting and introduction: (by February 2017)
2.1 Development of portal’s technical and contextual part (by March 2017)
2.2 Creating individual page for a citizen and integration with the map (by June 2017
2.3 Function for citizen’s subscription for any information related to different activities on interactive map (by July 2017)
2.4 Display of any problem by a citizen (also administrator) related to different projects covering different layers, also function for public discussion (by August 2017)
2.5 Piloting and introduction of the portal (by October 2017)
2.6 Personnel training on map functional and processing the data (October 2017)
2.7 Consultation, development of supportive legislative acts for the system, approval (by February 2017) 3.
3. Making one video clip covering portal and other OGP obligation and its dissemination through social media, mass media or municipalities local units (by November 2017)
Editorial Note: The commitment text above is an excerpt from the Tbilisi 2017 action plan. The complete text provides detailed and technical information on how the milestones will be carried out, assigns responsibility to specific actors and provides concrete deadlines for its implementation.
Overall Objective & Relevance
Traditionally, residents of Tbilisi have had limited access to information on decision making. There is no mechanism for feedback or to monitor government performance, particularly in decision making around issuance of construction permits, tree cutting and investment projects. Although legislation prescribes the possibility to involve all interested parties before any construction permits are issued, there is no proactive mechanism to involve citizens in the decision-making process and information is hard to access. Citizens usually participate through informal public councils and through competitions organized by Tbilisi City Hall to support individual citizen projects.
Chaotic construction and development projects in the city have been a cause of public outcry. Several cases of illegal cutting of trees have been reported by the media. Examples of media articles reporting the situation include, but are not limited to:
“Mass tree felling near Tbilisi for motorway construction”, http://oc-media.org/mass-tree-felling-near-tbilisi-for-motorway-construction/
“New Campaign targets illegal tree cutting for New Year”, http://agenda.ge/news/72293/eng
“709 trees were taken down in Tbilis in 2016”, https://jam-news.net/?p=11020 The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) has found it hard to follow the removal of trees in the city. Upon requests for disclosure of permits, the City has responded with incomplete and disorganized data. Giorgi Khatiashvili, “Statistics of cutting down trees in Tbilisi due to constructions purposes”, https://idfi.ge/en/trees-cut-for-construction-purposes Among the most prominent is the controversial case of ‘Panorama’ in Tbilisi. “Panorama Tbilisi -Investment that kills?”, https://storybuilder.jumpstart.ge/en/panorama-tbilisi-investment-that-kills Proposed in May 2014 as the Georgian Co-Investment Fund’s flagship project, it constitutes a large-scale, mixed-used development project that would extend from central Tbilisi into the Sololaki hillsides overlooking the historic city centre. Eva Anderson, “Georgian Co-investment Fund’s 2014 projects: Further Transparency needed”, Transparency International Georgia, http://www.transparency.ge/en/blog/georgian-co-investment-fund-s-2014-projects-further-transparency-needed The biggest concern is that it could damage Tbilisi’s architectural and cultural integrity, and endanger Old Tbilisi’s candidacy for UNESCO World Heritage Status. “UNESCO vs Ivanishvili,” JAMNews, https://jam-news.net/?p=2860 In spite of spirited grassroots protests, at the time when the action plan was being elaborated, there was limited public input on the project’s approval and city government decisions on the matter were widely questioned. Examples of media articles reporting the situation include, but are not limited to:
Dominik Cagara, 'Hundreds rally against Ivanishvili's 'Panorama Tbilisi' project,' Democracy and Freedom Watch, http://dfwatch.net/hundreds-rally-against-ivanishvilis-panorama-tbilisi-project-40538
Irakli Zhvania, 'Tbilisi's Panorama project is urban boosterism at its worst,' Open Democracy, https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/irakli-zhvania/tbilisi-panorama-project-urban-boosterism-at-its-worst
This commitment aims to increase access to information and allow citizens’ feedback through the creation of an interactive e-portal Smart Map. According to the action plan, the Smart Map would allow the publication of government-held construction data according to geographic locations with the use of maps; Tbilisi residents would be able to view information in a user-friendly format on the initial stage of constructions, tree cutting, large scale infrastructural projects or Tbilisi investment sites. The map was meant to introduce a mechanism to respond to citizen input and allow citizens to initiate discussions on specific projects in their neighborhood.
Additionally, the commitment introduces the legal obligation for City Hall to respond to citizens’ concerns and questions displayed in the portal in a timely manner.
This commitment is relevant to all OGP values. The Smart Map portal should display basic construction data including: status at any stage and other related information (it should be connected to the Department of Architecture’s database); information on large scale infrastructural projects (rehabilitation projects for old streets and buildings, reinforcement and construction of bridges, large scale road-infrastructural projects and other territorially or functionally significant large scale infrastructural projects); and a ‘Tbilisi property map’ with information related to Tbilisi-owned investment sites.
The portal is also intended to allow citizens to provide input (positive or negative) on any topic. It should also allow the public to present solutions or projects related to local issues that they identify in their neighborhoods. Finally, the commitment introduces the obligation of the Municipality to respond to public questions and complaints and these inputs, as explained above. For these reasons, the commitment is considered relevant to all OGP values.
Specificity and Potential Impact
The commitment is highly specific with milestones representing cumulative steps for developing and piloting the platform, training the relevant personnel and adoption of legal acts necessary for its functioning. The commitment also includes specific indicators that would allow the IRM researcher to measure the completion of its activities. These indicators, as written in the action plan, are:
The commitment could have a significant impact on changing government practice in publishing information and engaging citizens on construction and city infrastructure development issues. Given the lack of information on urban planning issues in the city, evidenced by the recent public outcries regarding issuance of construction permits and tree cutting, the Smart Map platform could be a result oriented and accountable participation system, in which Tbilisi Municipality will have an obligation to respond to the questions in a timely manner. In addition, it can support Tbilisi Municipality to make decisions through public participation and based on citizens’ needs.
CSOs which are members of the working group perceive the potential impact of this commitment differently. While CSOs differed in their assessment of potential impact, it is coded as Moderate. According to IDFI, the implementation of this commitment as a whole, and specifically creating legal obligations, provides the opportunity for CSOs and citizens to raise concerns about the way City Hall is currently giving information, which could translate to improved government practice. Levan Avalishvili (Programs Director, Co-founder of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information), interview with IRM researcher, 26 October 2017. However, despite its specificity, the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) did not believe this commitment would necessarily guarantee effective citizen participation or access to information. Vakhtang (Vako) Natsvlishvili (Open Society Georgia Foundation) and Anano Tsintsabadze (Participatory Democracy Program Project Coordinator, Open Society Georgia Foundation), interview with IRM researcher, 27 October 2017. OSGF referred to the past projects of City Hall in which similar platforms with maps were used to provide information. Interactive Tbilisi Mayoral Map, http://maps.tbilisi.gov.ge/#/C=44.7807474-41.7138468@Z=14 These were not widely known or used by the public. Without a robust awareness-raising strategy and a user-friendly platform, Smart Map could prove to be of little use. Additionally, regarding public accountability, they mentioned the language does not contain a guarantee that government feedback would be substantiated.
The implementation process clarified the aims and deliverables of the commitment. This commitment made progress at the beginning, but it is currently delayed and overall has been completed only to a limited extent.
The Government of Tbilisi, with the Tbilisi Municipal Services Development Agency (MSDA) and the Municipal Legal Department, prepared and approved the technical task for updating and modernizing the multi-functional web-portal and existing interactive map and timetable. MSDA developed the portal’s technical and contextual part which included the creation of a web portal (my.tbilisi.gov.ge), which is an online system providing information on municipal services and the municipality’s activities. A resident of Tbilisi can register and create a profile and have access to different portals that are planned to be implemented under the action plan for all the commitments.
The following portals were created under the first commitment: a) Smart Map b) Forum c) Fix Tbilisi. All three were in the process of development and were not available for public use at the time of writing of this report. The Smart Map application is a multifunctional, interactive map which is meant to serve as an information hub for construction-related data according to geographic locations presented on the map. The base platform of the map already existed prior to the commitment and a new interactive map was updated and added new layers of information about tree cutting issues, architecture and big infrastructural projects. The Forum module is meant to enable a dialogue with the public by introducing a feature to start public discussion about specific projects in different neighborhoods. City Hall has developed draft regulations that will oblige them to respond to concerns or issues raised in the forum. The FIX Tbilisi module would allow individuals to inform local authorities of problems that need to be fixed in their neighborhood. Registered users can report the problem through a mobile application integrated under the my.tbilisi.gov.ge, specifying the exact location of the problem, adding comments and attaching photos to provide detailed information. The Fix Tbilisi is based on the concept of the open-source FixMyStreet concept.
Several technical components were completed under this commitment, including development of test versions and functions of portals. In addition, relevant personnel from all government departments were trained on the Smart Map and test portals developed under the platform. The training covered all Gamgeobas and all 14 departments of City Hall. MSDA conducted training on the usage of the platform. All test versions of the portals with these features were presented to the IRM researcher and the OGP working group.
Even though technically the test versions of the portals are developed, CSOs consider that the implementation of this commitment remains limited unless appropriate legal acts are passed to support the functioning of the portals as envisaged by the action plan. City Hall presented a package of legal acts developed in the framework of the action plan during the eighth meeting of the working group on 10 October 2017. Minutes of the Meeting N8, http://ogp.tbilisi.gov.ge/img/original/2017/10/25/Record_of_Meeting_N8.pdf CSOs provided feedback during the meeting and later prepared recommendations and more detailed feedback, which was submitted via email. According to the representative of City Hall, based on the active consultation with members of the working group and several exchanges with civil society, supportive legislative acts for the proper functioning of the system were finalized. Khasia, February 2018. However, the process is currently delayed and no legislative acts have been approved. CSOs consider that legally binding rules for the functioning of these portals and for the obligation of City Hall to maintain these portals are critical for ensuring the sustainability despite personnel changes in the city government.
Furthermore, according to interviews with CSOs, including Open Society Georgia Foundation and Transparency International Georgia, which are members of the working group, they are not aware if their comments have been taken into consideration. Tsintsabadze, February 2018. Representatives of the CSOs have no information about the final version of the platform nor the legal acts they were working on, which should have been finalized by the end of 2017. Topuria, February 2018. The perceived reason for the delay is connected to the municipal elections and subsequent changes in the Government of Tbilisi. Tsintsabadze, February 2018.
Access to Information: No change
Civic Participation: No change
Public Accountability: No change
Civil society considers that there is no evidence yet to measure early results, as only the pilot version of the portals was presented by the Government of Tbilisi and none of the envisioned tools have become publicly accessible.
CSOs interviewed for this report mentioned that they have no direct access to the portal and have only seen the presentation of a test version. Tsintsabadze, February 2018. However, based on the test version and the draft legal acts made available prior to the October 2017 meeting, the OSGF representative believes that the Smart Map would not guarantee sufficient access to information, effective citizen participation or public accountability. Topuria, February 2018. Draft legal acts that they saw in October do not specify how City Hall will respond to topics raised during the Forum discussions.
Representative of USAID GGI believes that the addition of Fix Tbilisi was a good idea that could provide additional opportunities to involve e citizens in the process of governing the city. TI Georgia recalled that they had close cooperation with Tbilisi Municipality in 2011 “New website helps to fix problems on Tbilisi’s streets”, http://www.transparency.ge/en/post/press-release/new-website-helps-fix-problems-tbilisi%E2%80%99s-streets which resulted in the development of a website (Chemikucha.ge) based on a FixMyStreet concept, that allowed residents to easily report and discuss problems about the city’s streets, in order to get them fixed. After reporting to the website, Tbilisi City Hall automatically received an email that informed them about the issue reported by citizens. Tbilisi citizens actively used the website to report local problems. Topuria, February 2018. However, there was not much information available to residents on how the reported problems were being fixed or how the relevant public officials were held accountable.
Depending on when portals become publicly available, it will be important to see what features are being used, how many users are registered, what type of problems are reported and how City Hall responds to, and acts on, feedback received from the public.
City Hall needs to prioritize the following steps:
· Ensure that the commitment moves on and the portals are in fact launched, after the legal basis has been created. City Hall needs to pass the legal act clarifying the procedures for the government to incorporate received feedback and take follow-up measures. Also to ensure that the Smart Map application has user-friendly features.
· Once the portals are functional the government needs to promote the usage of my.tbilisi.gov.ge portal, and carry out a wide awareness-raising campaign to ensure that Tbilisi residents are familiar with the existing web-portal and the ways of using it.
Smart Map Civic Activity Portal
TBI0006, 2018, Access to Information
TBI0007, 2018, Capacity Building
Access to Services and Civic Engagement
TBI0008, 2018, Capacity Building
TBI0009, 2018, Capacity Building
City Hall Transparency
TBI0010, 2018, Access to Information
Information and Civic Activities Portal “Smart Map”
TBI0001, 2017, Capacity Building
Introduction of Petition System to Tbilisi City Hall, Electronic Petition
TBI0002, 2017, Capacity Building
Implementation of Participatory Budget Mechanism
TBI0003, 2017, Capacity Building
Interactive Accessibility to Budget Spending and Introduction of Civic Control Mechanisms
TBI0004, 2017, Fiscal Openness
Introduction of Civic Control and Accessibility Mechanisms for Municipal Services
TBI0005, 2017, Capacity Building