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GAM’s ‘Amman is Listening’ project wins Global Mayors Challenge

Municipality’s interactive maps recognised as urban solutions amid pandemic

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Jan 17,2022 - Last updated at Jan 18,2022

Greater Amman Municipality Mayor Yousef Al Shawarbeh poses for a group photo with the core team behind the ‘Amman is Listening’ project (Photo courtesy of GAM)

AMMAN — The city of Amman will receive $1 million for winning the Global Mayors Challenge and having come up with one of the most innovative urban solutions to emerge in the wake of COVID-19. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced on Tuesday that Amman is one of the 15 cities that have won the global challenge. 

According to Bloomberg’s website, 631 cities worldwide submitted their applications in 2021, from which a committee of global experts selected 50 of the most innovative urban solutions that emerged during the pandemic. 

“Amman is Listening” is the title of the winning project, presented by the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and represented by its mayor, Yousef Al Shawarbeh. 

It is an online participatory platform with interactive maps developed by GAM that allows residents to navigate the city, especially during crises. 

Shawarbeh said that Amman is facing many challenges. “It is not a pedestrian-friendly city, suffers from urban design shortcomings, poor lighting, lack of proper sidewalks. Neighbourhood regulations add to the challenge,” the mayor said.

As a response to the aforementioned challenges Amman faces, GAM designed interactive maps, which they named “reachability maps” to find weak areas in the city. This helps decision makers prioritise crisis response; the maps will be installed at public landmarks and community centres in the neighbourhoods, accessible to any residents or visitors. 

“The map can share updates on neighbourhoods including information on blocked areas, alternative routes, evacuation plans, and other public support locations and services. Reachability maps will help overcome the challenge Amman is facing by facilitating its development into a pedestrian friendly city,” Shawarbeh added.

“Amman is Listening” will promote equality and accessibility, help transfer knowledge to other cities and contribute to achieving international commitments, according to the mayor.

The municipality anticipates that the maps will help enhance walkability in the city, meet citizens’ needs, and explore areas for people to enjoy. GAM will work towards achieving sustainable and self-sufficient neighbourhoods where residents can access essential services in less than 20 minutes, he said.

These features will also give residents a chance to correct the geospatial datasets; they can report or amend details such as confirming a service location. The maps will detect anything from pandemics and natural disasters like flash floods, to roadblocks, he added. 

Topography and accessibility will also be part of the services the interactive map will provide.

According to Shawarbeh, at the beginning of the lockdown, GAM went on a mission to diagnose the city amid the crisis through evidence-based urban simulation of the city, locating the areas that lack accessibility to essential services on foot through geo-datasets as well as a city survey about people’s accessibility to said services. This mission transformed to what is known today as “Amman is Listening”.

“Jordan ranks 148 on its E-Participation Index, measured based on the availability of online information and e-decision making through direct citizen engagement,” Shawarbeh noted. 

One of the short-term goals for GAM is to create a single online platform for the city’s open data.

The mayor said that by receiving direct input from citizens about the state of their neighbourhoods, decision-making is informed, resulting in better infrastructure for the city, thereby enhancing walkability.

“Amman is Listening”, will be included in the strategic plan under the smart-city roadmap for the next five years. It is expected to have the trial launch of the interactive map 18 months after the start of the project,according to the mayor. 

“During the journey to develop the interactive maps, we noticed how people’s preferences and feelings of belonging differed. They all craved public participation and were unaware of the importance in voicing opinions. Our idea will include real-time feedback features through public involvement,” he said.

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