As part of their involvement in the smarticipate project, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg chose to use the smarticipate platform in a nature-based way – specifically, to plant trees. Residents of the German city can use the smarticipate platform to indicate where they would like a tree planted and receive immediate feedback on the feasibility of doing so.

At present, the prototype is focused on the newly developed area of HafenCity, with users encouraged to propose trees around playgrounds, for example, to provide children with shade while playing. All trees that currently exist in the city have been added to the map, using the city’s extensive bank of open data. Users can choose the species of tree to plant, and share their proposal to social media, allowing others to offer their support through liking or commenting on it.

Although the prototype is currently purely for testing purposes, in the future smarticipate could be integrated into the city’s DIPAS public participation tool explains Dr Nicole Schubbe, Project Manager with the Agency for Geoinformation and Surveying of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “As we like the idea of real time feedback, we are now trying to figure out what parts of smarticipate can be used in the further development of DIPAS,” says Dr Schubbe.

“The idea of smarticipate is simple but great. I would like to thank the smarticipate team for a nice and ambitious project! The dissemination of the project was also better than in many others – a lot of people called me and asked for information.” When asked for critical feedback about the project, Dr Schubbe says that for her the real-time feedback was the most important and impressive part of the smarticipate platform, however this aspect was not always top of the list in terms of priorities.

Although smarticipate didn’t cause Hamburg to rethink open data as it did in other partner cities – Hamburg was already very advanced in terms of open data – what it did do is enhance the way the data is interpreted. “The way the data is used in smarticipate is new and helpful for citizens, as they don’t have to understand the data itself,” says Dr Schubbe. One of the aims of the Urban Data Hub, the department Dr Schubbe is working in, is to make the huge amount of open data available better and easier to access. To make this happen with real-time feedback in an online tool with citizen participation is a promising approach.

Dr Schubbe believes that in presenting the data in such a way, the vision of smarticipate has been achieved for Hamburg: “Our aim was to test real time feedback. We collected requirements from different stakeholders and, particularly during the second Smartathon, we tested a prototype of the platform. The feedback was positive; people have been interested in the idea and even made proposals for new features.”