MIT Center for Civic Media | Innovating civic media tools and practices together with communities

Free City (Concluded)

The Free City project aims to design new technologies and methods to transform cities into places that are more engaging, sustainable, accessible and connected for all.

Through the creation of innovative social media tools and community capacity building initiatives, Free City promotes awareness and facilitates access to low-cost events, services and opportunities that are locally available. By doing so, we aim to reduce the information gap, foster social connectivity and unleash the learning potential of urban centers, contributing to the development of better educated and more democratic cities all over the world.

The Free City project has been inspired by Catraca Livre (“Open Turnstile” in Portuguese), a São Paulo-based initiative that, since 2009, disseminates information on free and low-cost city opportunities via a comprehensive media network that includes, among other things, web portals, radio stations, and even displays inside buses, subway trains and restaurants. On a daily basis, about 3 million people access Catraca Livre to find out what is happening in the city.

Free City emerged as a way to build a technological infrastructure to make it easier for local organizations to implement their own Catraca Livre-like initiatives with different audiences and locations. In order to do so, we are collaborating with organizations from different parts of the world and are using What’s Up, an open source software toolkit developed by the MIT Center for Civic Media to disseminate locally-relevant web content via low-cost digital signs, customized flyers and posters, and even via the generation of a simple, yet powerful community hotline that is usable with the lowest-end mobile and touch tone phones.

The Free City project is being developed in collaboration with Gilberto Dimenstein, the creator of Catraca Livre and fellow at Harvard University's Advanced Leadership Initiative.

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