Urban Festival: Empowering the Civic

In this complex and changing world, how do we really empower and motivate people to consciously participate in the transformation of South Africa’s cities and towns? What are the big opportunities if people and places are empowered by technology to achieve our objective of inclusive, resilient, safer and liveable cities and towns? And how can an all-of-society approach to activating citizens be ensured if tech remains inaccessible to many South Africans? Introducing this year’s Urban Festival theme: Empowering the Civic – an exploration into how the physical and virtual world can be harnessed to engage people in reimagining and shaping their own cities, both in these strange and uncertain COVID-19 pandemic times, and into the future.


The relationship between people and their government has always been critical to building a responsive and vibrant society, and is the bedrock of South Africa’s democracy given our past. And today, with a global pandemic that has been thrust upon our lives, this is an important moment to examine whether our cities and towns work for us and how technology – old or new – can empower people and communities to drive and champion change where they live and beyond.


The challenges and the opportunities come hand-in-hand, as a need to physically distance from one another has pushed us into a virtual work environment that before this seemed many years away. Technology has suddenly become integral to our way of life but it is imperative to apply this beyond the way we work, to close the gap between city governments and those who live in cities. And in particular, to accelerate the goals of South Africa’s Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) centred on enhancing access, growth and governance and achieving spatial transformation.


The Empowering the Civic edition of Urban Festival will therefore provide a platform to explore the potential of civic-tech to overcome current challenges and barriers and leap forward into new ways of civic engagement and mobilisation for urban development. Through this, it will aim to connect different parts of society, foster collaboration and seek solutions