The Global Initiative for Inclusive Information Communication Technologies (G3ict), together with World Enabled, have launched the “Smart Cities For All” Toolkit in efforts to define the state of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) accessibility in smart cities around the world. G3ict is a UN advocacy initiative that aims to facilitate and support the implementation of the dispositions of The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the accessibility of ICTs and assistive technologies. World Enabled is an educational non-profit organization that, according to its website: “promotes the rights and dignities of persons with disabilities.”
The study that preceded the toolkit emphasized the importance of including empowering different communities with equal opportunities and responsibilities in smart cities. The importance of the Smart Cities For All Toolkit comes down to the long struggle of persons with disabilities and older persons to live and work as efficiently as others do in their cities. Over the past year, World Enabled and G3ict surveyed 400 leaders from the public and private sectors, advocacy organizations, civil society and academia all over the world, only to find that 18% could think of a city using accessibility standards around technology.
The challenge they found is that in many countries there is a strong focus on disability rights and accessible technologies, and a strong focus on creating new smart cities, however, these efforts are rarely coordinated or integrated together – although both are mutually inclusive. The same is true of technology companies as well. Although every large technology company has a business unit focused on smart cities, and many have strong teams focused on accessibility and usability, yet each function seems to work in a silo, rarely coordinating with the others.
Using the results of the study, the groups compiled a toolkit composed of four steps, with the first going towards implementing priority ICT accessibility. Since accessible ICT standards are key to designing a more inclusive approach to smart cities, the team argues that cities should begin by understanding and adopting appropriate ICT accessibility standards to ensure that smart cities programs and digital services are inclusive of people with disabilities and elders.
The second step is communicating the case for a stronger commitment to digital inclusion in cities; or in other words spreading awareness of disability and ICT accessibility. First, communication goals and objectives should be set, then key messages should be developed and priority communication channels should be identified. After that is done, a communication strategy should be created ahead of mobilizing allies and resources, and in the end, outcomes should be measured and evaluated.
The third step would be adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy. The toolkit argues that smart cities worldwide are uniquely positioned to use their considerable purchasing power, including of ICT, to advance the rights and digital inclusion disabled persons and elders. The toolkit suggests that smart cities’ programs take advantage of existing model policy and best practices to develop effective policies for their public procurement of accessible ICT products and services.
The last tool is the database solutions for digital inclusion in cites. Smart cities that incorporate ICT accessibility into their programs and solutions can deliver enormous benefits for citizens with disabilities, older citizens, and the population as a whole. This tool includes more than 350 existing products and solutions that can benefit the lives of those who have disabilities, elders and a diverse range of citizens living in smart cities. When the database is released for general use, it will be useable by anyone who wants to find information about smart city apps, services, products, companies, and organizations that support digital inclusion.