Oulu fin­dings from Digiplace ‑pro­ject

Oulun keskusta kuvattuna lentokoneesta illalla, jolloin katuvalot näkyvät.

The city of Oulu took part in inter­na­tio­nal Digiplace pro­ject during 2019–2022. Oulu´s aim in Digiplace pro­ject was to inte­gra­te user feed­back and citizen par­tici­pa­tion in the process of digi­tal ser­vice crea­tion and main­te­nance. To get the­re we nee­ded tech­nical tools for col­lec­ting and moni­to­ring user expe­riences. We also nee­ded to encou­ra­ge other ser­vice units tho­rough the city to take the met­hods in use. In addi­tion to bet­ter tech­nical solu­tions, we nee­ded more con­tacts with citizens and citizen orga­niza­tions. Not only to unders­tand the dif­fe­rent needs of user groups, but also to ensu­re bet­ter sup­port for citizens who have trouble using the ser­vices. Based on all this, we have recog­nized four actions.

During Urbact DigiPlace we made small steps (Small Sca­le Action or SSAs) to cla­ri­fy our plan wit­hin each action. Based on the results of SSA we out­li­ned an action table for the futu­re. We had the fol­lowing fin­dings during the Digiplace pro­ject.

Oulu area has a good digi­tal eco­sys­tem and digi­tal solu­tions are being inc­rea­singly imple­men­ted to ser­vices, but we need to get citizens more invol­ved in the process. It is impor­tant to con­ti­nue searc­hing for tools that can enable par­tici­pa­tion and make feed­back easier to give. Moni­to­ring user satis­fac­tion and inc­rea­sing com­mu­nica­tion is in many cases easiest and most efficient to achie­ve trough digi­tal tools.

We need to remem­ber the role of digi­ta­liza­tion though: that it is a tool, not an int­rin­sic goal. It is impor­tant to keep a cri­tical mind­set and eva­lua­te which ser­vice chan­nel ser­ves the cus­to­mers’ needs best in a par­ticu­lar situa­tion. To crea­te acces­sible and fit­ting ser­vices, we need to hear the users’ feed­back and ideal­ly co-crea­te ser­vices to an extent. Moreo­ver, it is impor­tant to recog­nize that users are not a single cohe­rent group but con­sist of dif­fe­rent pre­fe­rences and levels of abi­li­ty. Acti­ve par­tici­pa­tion process is nee­ded to ensu­re that all dif­fe­rent needs are met. This way we can deve­lop bet­ter digi­tal ser­vices. Well desig­ned and deve­lo­ped digi­tal ser­vices also help us opti­mize our resources so that we are still able to pro­vi­de more tra­di­tio­nal ser­vice chan­nels to groups that face chal­len­ges with digi­tal ser­vices or have par­ticu­lar­ly complica­ted problems to deal with. 

Our action plan is very much about a cul­tu­ral chan­ge in the orga­niza­tion: Our vision is to make the ser­vice deve­lop­ment process more citizen-cent­ric and to inclu­de citizen par­tici­pa­tion. In addi­tion, we aim to fade lines between ser­vice units and crea­te more coo­pe­ra­tion to crea­te more cohe­rence in the ser­vice struc­tu­re from the cus­to­mers’ point of view. To extend this, we also need to network with actors and ser­vice pro­vi­ders out­si­de of the city orga­niza­tion.

The cul­tu­ral chan­ge is gra­dual, and in our action plan we have defi­ned impor­tant steps towards it. The city has good pre­mi­ses for this deve­lop­ment: we have a new cross-govern­men­tal deve­lop­ment model for cus­to­mer ser­vice in place, and an acti­ve­ly deve­lo­ping cent­ral cus­to­mer ser­vice unit that can act as a test bed and advoca­te for good prac­tices. Moreo­ver, we have chan­nels to con­nect com­pa­nies with citizen par­tici­pa­tion. The digi­tal eco­sys­tem in the city is alrea­dy strong, and trough bet­ter col­la­bo­ra­tion between city units and com­pa­nies, we can bring com­pa­nies and citizens clo­ser toget­her when loo­king for deve­lop­ment solu­tions. 

Inclusion and digi­ta­liza­tion are both big and cur­rent the­mes in city plan­ning and policies. The inte­gra­ted action plan for citizen-cent­ric digi­tal ser­vice deve­lop­ment is part of impor­tant trends that Oulu needs to be a part of.

Oulu´s results can be read in more detail from “URBACT DigiPlace Inte­gra­ted Action Plan in Oulu, Fin­land”

Read more about URBACT DigiPlace — Inte­gra­ted Action Plan in Oulu, Fin­land (pdf file)