How smart can a smart city be? ‘Smart’ is everything from the footpath to the website. So not so smart if it doesn’t include everyone and join the dots between all the factors that make a city a city. With digital transformations happening worldwide, the aim of the Smart Cities for All Toolkit is to eliminate the digital divide and improve urban environments for everyone.
The main part of the toolkit, the Inclusive Innovation Playbook, is detailed and aimed at a policy and planning level. Stakeholder participation and inclusion is an essential theme. Case studies assist with understanding. There is a helpful checklist at the end of the Playbook. There’s a lot to digest, but this means it isn’t a cursory overview with simplistic solutions. It goes much deeper than a digital accessibility checklist. This is about joining the dots across city assets and leveraging them for everyone’s benefit. Other sections of the toolkit cover:
Guide to adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy
Implementing priority ICT accessibility standards
Communicating the case for stronger commitment to digital inclusion in cities
Database of solutions for digital inclusion in cities
“The toolkit supports a range of organizations and roles related to Smart Cities, including government managers, policy makers, IT professionals, disability advocates, procurement officials, technology suppliers, and developers who design Smart City apps and solutions.
Each of the tools addresses a priority challenge identified by global experts as a barrier to the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons in Smart Cities.” See also Smart Cities for All: A Vision.
James Thurston of 3Gict came to Sydney in 2019 and discussed the issues and solutions in his keynote presentation in the video below.
5 Pillars of a Smart City
James Thurston is G3ict’s Vice President for Global Strategy and Development. He previously worked for Microsoft, so he knows the territory well. His keynote presentationat UD2021 Conference showed that technology is improving but it’s not inclusive. Cities have to do a lot more if we are to meet the challenges of the digital world.
He lists the five pillars as:
Strategic Intent: inclusion strategy and leadership
Culture: citizen engagement and transparency
Governance & Process: procurement and partnerships
Technology: Global standards and solution development
Gerard Goggin has written a thoughtful piece on the issue of automated vehicles and how they might, or might not, be a boon for people with disability. The value of automated vehicles for people with disability is often mentioned in articles related to this technology, but will that value be realised? The article raises some important pointsabout the depiction of disability and how it is communicated and how that plays out into the world of technological development. Goggin covers “blind driving”, developments by Google and Waymo and more. Mentioning the inclusion of older people and people with disability as good news stories is insufficient to put these users at the centre of designs. Written in academic style but important thinking going on here. The title of the article is, Disability, Connected Cars, and Communication.
Introduction: In this article, I take up a highly visible theme in discourses, experimentation, and manufacture of connected cars and autonomous vehicles: disability. I analyze the leading ways in which this new kind of technology is imagined for particular users with disability, as in the highly publicized case of Google’s pilot driverless vehicle promoted as a boon for blind people and those with vision impairments. Then, I try to stand this kind of framing of connected-cars-as-good-for-disability on its head, and discuss the implications for questions of emerging social technology, equality, diversity, and design. Reflecting on this analysis, I look at what disability tells us about connected cars, and, indeed, how we might rethink communication and technology.
Note: Gerard Goggin co-authored a book, “Disability in Australia: exposing a social apartheid”. Written in 2005, it is still relevant today. It can be bought online or accessed through the National Library of Australia.
The international Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation Index (DARE) rates Australia as 71 points out of 100. Apparently this makes us 12th in global rankings with an implementation ranking of 10th. The index takes Australia’s laws and regulations, policies and programs, and capacity to implement inclusive technology into the scale. It seems Australia has full capacity to implement, but has only just passed the halfway mark in actual implementation.
G3ict has also produced a report with more detail. “The report gathers insights from the survey by Level Access in cooperation with G3ict on the current state of accessibility in organizations as undertaken by 550 professionals from organizations of all sectors. The high number of responses shows the considerable interest for trends in accessibility implementation. Readers are encouraged to go through the detailed results of the survey and compare them to their own experience to help advance their own endeavors and the accessibility profession at large.”
Click-away customers are not those clicking on the pages on your website. They are clicking off because they can’t navigate the pages.A neat video by Barclays Bank debunks common myths about customer complaints, costs of being accessible, access being someone else’s job, it’s too small a market for all that time and effort, and accessible design is boring design. Towards the end there is a great statement, “accessible design should work well for those who need it, and be invisible to those who don’t”. A really useful video for anyone promoting accessible customer service in our digital world, and for others wondering if it really is worth the effort. The video is captioned.
Artificial Intelligence is here and it’s global. Australia won’t have the last word on all developments. Indeed, we have AI elements in our technology now that was developed overseas. AI holds promises of improved quality of life for most people, assuming all the privacy issues can be solved adequately. And we have to make sure it is fair and inclusive. But AI runs on data – data collected from individuals, their behaviours, and life events. How can we be sure this data is applied through algorithms in a fair and inclusive way? There’s a survey you can do.
Now is the time to ensure the Australian Government and others get the feedback they need on future developments of AI. I encourage you to contribute to the consultation on the Australian Government’s AI ethics framework. You don’t have to be an expert on the topic, just an expert on inclusion or your experiences of being excluded by design.
The online survey is short and allows lots of space for your opinions and experience. Or you can write a submission and send it in. The discussion papers are easy to read and available in a PDF document and a Word document. Submissions close 31 May.
The concepts of universal design are expanding to encompass marginalised and disenfranchised groups in our community. In the article A 10-step guide to queer UX, there is a nice quote “There’s nothing revolutionary about technology if it is only for a limited number of people.” Making products and places more accessible for gender non-conforming and trans folk is also making them more welcoming for everyone. Roniece Ricardo writes about her observations and interaction with software as a queer gender non-conforming woman. She makes ten points:
Allow users to change or write in their own gender
Consider not having users specify gender
Allow users the choice to hide or display identifying information from profiles
Don’t assume anything about gender presentation
Don’t assume your user’s pronouns
Be careful with your marketing materials
Don’t make assumptions about who your users date (or don’t)
If you are making a niche product, receive actual feedback from the people in the niche
The National Disability Authority, which funds the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland, has produced an online Accessibility Toolkit that is targeted towards services, both public and business. The home page has a list of items that you can look at individually. They are listed and linked below. The home page also has a 16 minute video briefly outlining each of the items. Each of the links below has links to further resources.
As technology races ahead we need to be thinking quickly about policy development, and ethical questions related to artificial intelligence and the level to which it can affect our lives for good and perhaps not so good. Monash University has produced an 11 minute video in which several speakers have their say on the topic of automation and artificial intelligence. Good points are made from both an ethical perspective and a practical perspective. One point not mentioned is whether all such technology will be inclusive for all users.
The Norwegian Government has taken the principles of universal design and applied them across all policies to create maximum inclusion. This makes everyone responsible for inclusion at every level – in the built environment, outdoor areas, transport, and ICT. Here is an update to “Norway Universally Designed by 2025”.
In 2008, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, launched its first Action Plan 2009-2013, which sets the goal of Norway being universally designed by 2025.
In 2010, Norway amended its Planning and Building Act to include universal design. In 2016, The Delta Centre was given responsibility to coordinate the actions in the 2015-2019 plan. This plan is more comprehensive and covers ICT and communications to a more detailed level. This is in recognition of how we are becoming more reliant on digital applications.