In order to solve the problem of waste accumulation in the city of Nablus, an application was created for drivers of cars affiliated with the Solid Waste Department of Palestine. Many areas in Palestine face the challenge of accumulation of waste in commercial areas, which affects citizens who use the area, and causes traffic congestion during the waste collection process due to the lack of specific paths that take into account the shortest road, priority streets, and waste collection times. The digital solution organizes the process of collecting waste throughout the day with the least possible time, effort and cost, which helps determine the routes of waste collection vehicles and determine the shortest paths to them.
Many areas in Palestine face the challenge of the accumulation of waste in commercial areas, which affects the citizens who use the area, and causes traffic congestion during the waste collection process by municipality employees due to the lack of specific paths that take into account the shortest road, priority streets and waste collection times. This increases the effort and cost on all municipalities, including Nablus Municipality, in which this innovative solution was piloted in.
The intervention was based on a human-centred design methodology that created an application that solves the problem of waste accumulation in the city of Nablus, targeting citizens and drivers of municipal cars affiliated with the Solid Waste Department. A digital solution that organizes the process of collecting waste throughout the day with the least possible time, effort and cost, which helps determine the routes of waste collection vehicles and determine the shortest paths to them (traveling salesman problem) and classify neighborhoods according to priority for collection based on land uses and population density.
Digital services and participation formats are usually designed without the involvement of citizens as the actual users. If participation takes place, it is limited to the commenting on already developed products, rather than engaging citizens in a co-creative process from defining the problem to developing and testing solutions. Furthermore, the users are often seen as a homogeneous group, whereas the specific needs of certain social groups such as women, the elderly or people with disabilities are not taken into consideration. Digital solutions are therefore little user-friendly, and the uptake remains low. Thus, the great potentials of digital transformation such as increased accessibility, participation, and transparency are not yet being exploited.
GIZ’s INDIGO and An-Najah University aimed to tackle this challenge by building the capacity of university students to develop and promote citizen centered and inclusive digital services for municipalities. With the goal to develop and pilot digital municipal services that were designed with citizens. This objective was achieved by building the capacity and training students and faculty supervisors on human-centered design principles and approaches, to enable them to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment in the targeted municipalities related to the challenges they want to resolve. The inclusive digital solutions were developed by the students to support municipal services and public participation, utilizing existing GIS capabilities in the country. The students, under the university, provided the needed capacity building and documents to the municipality to operationalize the developed solutions, as well as support the municipalities to promote the solutions to the public.
The students conducted literature review to confirm the needs for Nablus Municipality, and went through the following process:
Inspiration phase: At this stage, the work team conducted several interviews with citizens, municipality employees, shop owners and employees in different areas of the city, including the university and hidden areas and the city center, by asking them about the problems they face during their day regarding waste, their opinion of the waste collection process in the city, and their suggestions for solutions. The number of interviews reached 22, 7 were by municipal employees and 15 from citizens.
Ideation phase: After settling on the problem, two prototypes were developed. Another round of interviews with citizens and municipal staff were conducted to survey how satisfied they are with the solutions or if they have any thoughts. The end result was set, which can be defined as a smart app with the following features: 1. Determine the locations of the baskets and thus determine the path of waste collection vehicles based on the shortest possible route in order to reduce cost and time. 2. Postpone the collection of waste on the main roads until the evening or night times. 3. Organizing the waste management and collection process in an easy manner.
Implementation phase: At this stage, work was done with Nablus municipality employees. This included tracking how satisfied they were with the output of the project, and getting feedback to improve the project. Also, tools, like the programming languages used, were identified.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The challenge that this solution resolved was identified along with citizen and municipal staff, following a human-centred design (HCD) process. The students were trained on the HCD methodology and the available tools, to apply it in identifying the challenge, the solution, and rollout the solution in an iterative manner, while involving the citizens and users at all stages of the process. The digital solution is new and was never applied before in the Palestinian context.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The platform is currently launched under the name “Your Nearest Path” multi-platform mobile application that organizes the process of collecting waste throughout the day with the least possible time, effort and cost. It helps determine the routes of waste collection vehicles and determine the shortest path (Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm). As of August 31, 2022 there were 180 users on the platform.
Collaborations & Partnerships
- Municipal Staff
- Government official
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The digital solution saved effort and cost for the municipality of Nablus and facilitated the process of solid waste management for citizens, allowing them to move with less traffic and under better and more healthy conditions.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
One month after the launch, there were already 180 users on the platform. User registration and satisfaction is tracked through the app.
Challenges and Failures
A key challenge included the municipality's infrastructure and availability of staff to administrate the solutions. This was addressed through support from GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) and the University.
Conditions for Success
Supporting infrastructure and services is an ongoing process that shall continue until the municipality is able to host the application by itself. Human resources (part-time personnel) is required to administrate the personnel. This is currently carried out by the University.
The solution was piloted in one of the municipalities in Palestine (Nablus); the solution is scalable and can be applied in other municipalities, as this challenge exist in all big cities.
It is highly important to keep stakeholders and citizens involved throughout all the phases of the project, starting with identifying the challenge. This will enhance the sense of ownership to stakeholders and contribute to the success of the project. It is also important to identify the needed resources to design and implement the solution, and work with various partners to ensure the resources are available to support the process.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
16 November 2023