Urban Voice making itself heard

Urban Voice making itself heard

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A new website is trying to change the way residents of Phnom Penh interact with their city. Nora Lindström and Ell Ath, part of the team behind Urban Voice, talked to Post Property about the project, and explained how it will work.

“Urban Voice is a tool for everyone to participate in the development of Phnom Penh by sharing information and events. The concept is pretty new to Cambodia: it’s based on the idea of crowdsourcing, which means sourcing information from the crowd,” says Ell. “It’s a little bit like Facebook in that it allows you to post things you are interested in, but the big difference is that unlike Facebook, where posts eventually get lost in the newsfeed, on Urban Voice they leave a lasting record by being put on a map of Phnom Penh.”

Lindström says Urban Voice will cover a wide range of subjects.

“It’s about documenting change in Phnom Penh, so we’re looking for almost any information about the city. This can include new development projects – if you look on our site there are already many reports about the latest condos, satellite cities, and infrastructure projects – but also things like urban heritage buildings.”

Lindström, originally from Finland and lived in Cambodia for five years, says the speed at which Phnom Penh is developing makes it important to document the changes currently going on.

“Phnom Penh is changing faster than anyone can keep track of – Urban Voice allows us all to keep track of it together,” she says.

She says that the more people who use Urban Voice, the more useful it will become.

“Together, we can know more. At the moment, we have a Focus Campaign in which we are encouraging people to submit reports on flooding in the city – with many streets flooding every time it rains, mapping this out can help people avoid getting stuck in knee-high water. We are also looking to map where there are traffic jams or other obstructions to traffic flows.”

At the moment, the site is still growing, as Lindstrom and her team continue to develop the site and try to create awareness about the usefulness of Urban Voice.

“We soft launched the site in February last year, and we are now slowly building our “crowd”. Internet penetration in Cambodia remains very low, but there are lot of young people in Phnom Penh who are very active online – these are the people we are trying to attract to the site.”

Lindström is careful to point out that Urban Voice needs to develop a life of its own.

“We don’t want to direct the site’s development too much. We hope different sectors in society will see the site’s usefulness to them and then contribute information. The more information there is on the site, the more everyone can get out of it in terms of the analysis it provides.”

The range of information available on the site is impressive. From demographic information to traffic congestion hotspots, infrastructure projects and utility issues, and even historical photos of Phnom Penh over the years, almost everything you can think of related to the city is there.

But Ell stresses that more information is always needed.

“The easiest way to get involved is by going online and submitting a report,” he says. “Those who want to learn more and become more involved can also join the Task Force, a group of volunteers that meets on a monthly basis to discuss site development, design campaigns, and learn more about crowdsourcing, mapping, and urban development.”

For more information, email Urban Voice at [email protected]

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