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January 31st, 2019 13:30

Keeping up with Le Lab Ouishare x Chronos and its latest project, Capital Numérique

Mridhula RAGHAVAN
Mridhula RAGHAVAN Public Seen by 234

Hello everyone,

I’m Mridhula and I joined the Lab Ouishare x Chronos team this month. This post is about our latest research project at the Lab called “Capital Numérique” and more broadly about keeping up with all the work we do.

About the lab

Led by @taoufikv, Le Lab Ouishare x Chronos is a partnership we formed with French research and consulting firm Chronos in 2016. Together, Le Lab Ouishare x Chronos works with public and private actors and undertakes learning expeditions on emerging topics of interest for the city (such as third places, digital inclusion, data governance etc.)

Currently, Le Lab Ouishare x Chronos is working on three projects:
* Through their study of eight third places across France and Europe, Mille Lieux aims to look into the impact of third places on cities, beyond just their economic impact
* DataCités, now in their second year of study, is working with four cities in France to develop a governance structure and a business model to leverage on citizen-generated data and overall, support the creation of new services based on urban data
* Capital Numérique is a study that seeks to understand the usage of digital tools in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods to find work, to engage in civic life, for doing business etc.

Since the discussion on digital empowerment is not unique to France, we believe that the project could benefit from international voices, ideas and projects. If you are interested in the discussion around digital empowerment, read along and do not hesitate to join our dedicated Telegram channel.

What

Capital Numérique is a research-action study to understand how economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods (in France, there is an administrative word for that: they are called Quartiers Prioritaires de la Politique de la Ville or QPVs) use their smartphones and the internet, and ultimately, design solutions to empower these residents with digital skills in the areas of finding work, participating in civic life and doing business.

Why

For almost two years, between working on the 2017 Ouishare Fest and the launch of Le Lab Ouishare x Chronos, we have meditated on the topic of how technology can drive the cities of the future. The dialogue on smart cities itself make digitization or “technologization” of the cities almost a synonym for simplified and easy daily life.

It became painfully obvious to us that those conversations were about some of us, but not everyone. In February and March 2017, we organized two conferences that led to thought-provoking discussions. You can read the two articles we published on the subject first, The smart city doesn’t like the poor and Civic-tech is searching for its citizen-users.

Taoufik began reflecting on how these link with the issues concerning the priority neighbourhoods residents during the 2017 Ouishare Fest organized in Pantin. After some meetings and interviews, the first encouraging sign came in one of our meetings with Caisse des Dépôts (a public sector financial institution) who were ready to co-finance a study. It took us a while – first to define our hypotheses and then to convince organizations with similar interest to invest their time and co-fund the project. After several meetings with government actors and field interviews -- almost a year after our first discussion on the subject -- we launched “Capital Numérique” in June 2018.

Our hypotheses

Our initial hypotheses aims to debunk some myths in this area, especially the digital divide. In our view, there is no longer such a thing as a “digital divide”. Residents, even from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, use their smartphones and the internet as part of their day-to-day activities, but they are just not recognized or valued. The inequalities are far more profound and run deep.

Despite its equalizing potential, it’s possible that digital technology does not have a role to play in empowering the 5 million residents of French priority neighbourhoods. It has not been demonstrated that their lives have become easy because of digital technology, to be able join the workforce, to engage in civic life, to access social benefits, and benefit from opportunities or simply just feel empowered. It has become clear to us, after many interviews with private and public actors, that today’s digital tools are not designed to sufficiently meet the needs and expectations of the priority neighbourhood residents.

The goal

Through this exploration, our goal is very simple. We wish to design tangible solutions that lead to empowerment of the priority neighbourhood residents based on their habits and expectations (through digital means, but not limited to that alone).

Our approach

We’ve narrowed our study to focus on three topics where digital technology increases opportunities for the inhabitants and have the potential to empower them : employment, civic engagement and entrepreneurship. For each theme, we will learn about the habits, needs and expectations of the priority neighbourhood residents and take stock of user-centric innovative and inclusive solutions.

  • Our team: 50% Ouishare (Taoufik, Solène, Mridhula, Vincent) & 50% Chronos (Philippe, Laurent, Isabelle, Nina) … 100% Lab :)
  • Our partners: Private actors including an insurance company (MAIF), a telecom operator (Orange), local and national public actors (including the national unemployment agency, Pôle Emploi)
  • The study will focus on five priority neighbourhoods all over France: Bagnolet, Montreuil (Paris suburbs), Marseille (in Provence), Besançon (in Franche-Comté) and Saint Laurent du Maroni (in French Guiana).

Where we are right now

The exploration, divided in two phases, began last year in July.
* In the first research phase, between July and December 2018, we read articles, reports, publications, interviewed several organisations, defined the scope of the project and our hypotheses.
* In the second phase, between now and July 2019, we are interviewing local actors and inhabitants themselves to understand their practices and needs to ultimately leverage on collective intelligence to design solutions to empower them.

The study will close with an event in front of the public with our findings and recommendations.

Still reading? Here’s how we can work together

You can contribute in a number of different ways:
* Did you come across an interesting article on digital inclusion in your part of the world? Share it on Telegram with us.
* Do you know of an innovative and inclusive organization or project on one of the thematic areas of this project (civic engagement, employment and entrepreneurship)? Do you also happen to have a contact? That will be super useful for us.
* And if you have other skills you think will help support our project, let us know too.

We are creating a new Telegram chatroom for this purpose.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts/ comments and ideas :) As for us, we’ll make our best to keep you updated and share our findings and deliverables on a regular basis.

See you on Telegram,
Mridhula, Solène and Taoufik