SOCIETY

Open Korinthos, a new digital platform, aims to engage the local community

“English athlete Steve Backley said that there are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who say, ‘What happened?’ We each have to decide which kind we want to be.”

Kostas Roboras has already decided, and so have another seven of his friends in Corinth (Korinthos in Greek). Instead of just observing or talking about the problems dogging their city, they decided to take action.

Investing some of their free time (which was limited to begin with as all of them have jobs and families), they have created openkorinthos.gr, a platform that aspires to awaken the local community by engaging citizens in civic affairs.

The idea came about in the summer of 2012 on a local feast day. “It was chaotic,” Kostas recalled. “There were piglets roasting next to street vendors hawking their wares amid the blaring sound of clarinets playing folk music – a multicultural pastiche.”

The group of friends soon started discussing the city’s lost identity. “Every city has its own identity, except Corinth,” said Antonis Diamantidis, a co-founder of the Open Korinthos project. “More importantly, there has been no discussion about where we want to go. What is our direction?”

This is the idea behind the site. “We want to encourage people to take a more active role in community affairs. The aim is to increase the level of awareness, interaction and engagement,” Diamantidis said.

The team behind Open Korinthos believes that current urban management model is outdated. “People are at the passive end of decisions that have an impact upon their lives without any prior consultation,” Diamantidis said.

“We want to highlight fresh ideas and faces, to talk about open and smart cities, to shake people out of their apathy.”

However, if you want to discover an opportunity you first have to be aware of the problem. Open Korinthos is a tool in the service of citizen journalism. Through the site, citizens can report anything of interest in their neighborhood.

People are invited to upload comments, photographs, tweets and so on. “By the people and for the people,” said Roboras, who is in charge of PR. Once reported, the issues will be pinned on a map and complaints will be forwarded to municipal authorities or whoever is responsible.

“We will forward requests and complaints by locals or businesspeople to the municipality. We will then monitor their response and provide feedback about progress,” Roboras explained.

Users are also invited to contribute to the promotion of Corinth as a tourism destination. “They can suggest places worth visiting, they can narrate long-forgotten stories and they can post old family photos,” Roboras said.

The people behind the site would like to hear proposals from scientists and experts about how the city can improve itself too.

“We believe this is a pioneering project for Greek standards. For the first time we are seeing certain concepts adapted to the needs of the local community,” Roboras said.

Everything will depend on the public’s response. The early signs are encouraging.