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Multi-Million Pound Research Grant Develops MobileTechnology

The project will develop user-friendly technologies and platforms which can be installed on mobile phones to allow the public to input directly into policy-making, by giving feedback on issues affecting their daily lives. This project will essentially prove the ability and need for the creation of 'apps' that are public sector focused, picking up where iPhone services end.

The three-year UbiPOL (Ubiquitous Participation for Policy Making) Project has received a total grant of 2.7 million Euros from the European Union, with £400,000 awarded to Brunel Business School, whose Dean Professor Zahir Irani is co-ordinating the consortium.

The other members involved in the project are Barnsley Metropolitan Council (UK), telecommunications company Turksat, web map provider Basarsoft, and Sabanci University (all from Turkey), innovation, communications and technology companies PDM&FC (Portugal), IPA SA (Romania), and Fraunhofer FOKUS (Germany), and the Corvinus University of Budapest (Hungary).

"This project will develop a mechanism by which the public can access local government at their fingertips and, more importantly, to give feedback and suggestions which can then be considered by policy-makers. It will be a public sector version of the private sector revolution we are witnessing following the launch of the applications [apps] we now see on mobile devices, the difference being UbiPol will promote 'apps' that lead to social cohesion through Government ," said Professor Zahir Iran, Dean of Brunel Business School.

"All too often members of the public feel disengaged from local policy but this new system of e-government will give them instant access to services and information, and put the power in their hands - literally."

Technological advances in mobile communication have led to the development of mParticipation (mobile participation) systems, allowing the public to be involved in policy making processes even on the move. These systems are only successful if users are committed to the process and feel motivated to contribute.

Dr Habin Lee, from Brunel Business School, says a key issue the UbiPOL project will address is lack of participation:

"Research has shown that one of the reasons that citizens are de-motivated is an ignorance about relevant policies and the policy making processes in governments. However the more they find connections between their usual life activities and relevant policies, the more they become proactive or motivated to be involved in the policy making process."

UbiPOL aims to provide relevant information to users who will be alerted to policies and processes while on the move. The GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) locator in mobile phones will pinpoint the relevant locations for each user.

The technology will also enable users to send information to their local council via their mobile phone, on issues including transport, parking, planning, environmental issues and health and safety.

Problem roads could, for example, be given a 'yellow card' by users and this feedback could help create 'red zones' on a geographical map, identifying an area which needs consideration by policy makers.

Using the platform citizens are expected to:
• be more widely aware of any relevant policies and policy making processes
• be more likely to participate to the relevant policy making processes as part of their everyday lives
• provide more relevant opinion (or information) to inform the policy making process.

Once developed the technology will be tested in the UK and Turkey for policy making processes in four areas: environment, urban planning, household management, and health & safety.

"We will be developing an effective technology which will be scalable for a large population. It will be a pull-push system with users pulling in the information they need, wherever they are, and pushing out feedback to policymakers," said Professor Irani.


Notes to Editors

UbiPOL was highly rated by evaluators and ranked the 2nd best among 58 applications to the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (Policy modelling and governance) in 2009.
Professor Zahir Irani, Dean of Brunel Business School, is coordinating the UbiPOL consortium while Dr Habin Lee is leading the team at Brunel in collaboration with Dr Vishanth Weerakkody, Dr David Gallear and Ms Farhana Sajjad.

Brunel Business School is home to over 2,200 students and offers a range of programmes covering all the core business and management disciplines at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level. The School also hosts six world-renowned centres of research categorised under six main themes: organisation studies, enterprise, innovation, sustainability and ethics, marketing, international business and strategy, operations and supply chains, and management information systems. See www.brunel.ac.uk/about/acad/bbs for more details.

For more information please contact Fiona Leslie at Communications Management at fiona@communicationsmanagement.co.uk or on 01727 733884.