CHALLENGE 1: Stray Dogs

Challenge

Stray dogs – risk to humans in the public sphere and mistreatment of the dogs

Short description

Stray dogs have become a major cause of concern throughout the country, with numerous cases of people being bitten and intimidated, as well as widespread poisoning of strays, which is both inhumane and dangerous to human health. On the other hand, the dogs are often mistreated by the citizens and authorities, with no good solution currently to the problem. 

A large and growing population of stray dogs has emerged in many towns due to years of negligence and inadequate measures to control these animals. Stray dogs are result of irresponsible ownership and are not treated properly from the institutions and community in accordance of law on welfare of the animals. As a result, the presence of stray dogs can have a negative impact on human health and the urban environment, frightening and attacking people, causing traffic accidents and noise pollution, as well as causing problems for municipal waste-collection services. 

What could we do to help improve this situation? Could we help change perceptions about stray dogs and make them more attractive for adoption? 

How could technology support the stray dog problem?

Current state

There are no accurate official statistics to calculate the total number of stray dogs in the country, though the Anima Mundi association for the protection of animals estimates there are around 20,000 stray dogs in all. 

It is estimated that there are about 300 stray dogs in Strumica, Veles and Gostivar. Some of them have been medically treated and released. 

Here’s what these municipalities are currently doing to help solve the stray dog challenge:

  1. Veles has adopted a plan for 2018-2020 to control the population of stray dogs. The plan will focus on catching, transport, identification, recording and medical treatment.
  2. In Strumica, two shelters are being currently constructed in the Southeast Planning Region. Two vehicles have also been procured for transferring dogs from the location where they were caught to the shelter.
  3. UNDP procured and donated a vehicle for dogs to the Municipality of Gostivar thorugh the IMG project.

Involved stakeholders

Municipality, hospitals, schools, Food and Veterinary Agency, Center for Development of the Southeast Planning Region, Bureau for Regional Development, residents

Desired outcome

Reduce the number of stray dogs in the city centers, parks, schools.

Human treatment from citizens and community to stray dogs in accordance with the law on animal welfare. 

Reduce the attacks of stray dogs.

Increase residents’ sense of safety in the city.

Things to think about

  • Solutions do not have to focus on the capture and treatment process. 
  • The solutions may possible focus on promoting responsible ownership and adoption in order to prevent the growing number of new stray dogs. 
  • They can also focus on preventing dogs from coming to specific places (for example schools).
  • There could be different ways to deal with marked and unmarked dogs.
  • Using hardware/sensors can be useful in solving the challenge.
  • Since we are dealing with living animals, many residents are afraid that the potential solution might be inhumane and harm their wellbeing.

What is going on in the world?

There are very few technological solutions available to deal with the stray dog challenge. A common tech solution is to put chips on stray dogs. This helps municipalities identify them, understand their behavioral patterns and manage them better. 

When it comes to less technological approaches, one solution that has proven effective is the establishment of programs that promote a culture of dog adoption. In order to lead such a shift, this process usually includes following steps:

  1. Service provision – immunity, medical and rescue service for dogs;
  2. Disease prevention – improving services for animal disease prevention and treatment;
  3. Dog shelters – building dogs shelters for stray dogs and launching volunteer programs for school students;
  4. Education:
  5. Implementing educational programs for pet owners and launching an app providing support to pet owners, including veterinary services, ordering dog food, video sessions with dog trainer, Q&A, forum, community events and more;
  6. Advertising campaigns for families that emphasize the benefits for kids to grow up with a dog;   
  7. Open adoption events in popular areas of the city that get major exposure;
  8. “Foster family” for dogs- enabling individual to adopt a dog for a short period and bring it back to the shelter at the end of the period.
CHALLENGE 2: Developing Local Tourism

Challenge

Underdeveloped tourist industry and the lack of its promotion in easy and inexpensive ways

Short description

Dense with old-world culture, rustic gourmet cuisine, mountain chains, remote villages, and some of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, North Macedonia has tremendous tourist potential. However, this tourism potential remains untapped and requires greater promotion. 

Can you think about ways to support the local municipalities of Veles, Strumica and Gostivar in promoting tourism in their areas by using technology? What could these municipalities do to attract and engage more national and international tourists?

Current state

The municipalities of Veles, Strumica and Gostivar do not have a developed strategy for local tourism development. They are in the process of drafting strategic plans. Although the municipalities have a lot to offer to tourists, it seems like there is no way to easily access this information. 

There is currently no single point of info contact in any of the municipalities about tourism services, such as offers, adventures and products (e.g. organic and natural local produce). 

the municipalities are looking into opening tourist information centers, however, such projects are usually expensive and only partly solve the challenge of spreading the right information about tourist services since most tourists plan their vacation routes in advance online. 

Specific information about the municipalities:

Strumica:

The municipality has all types of tourism: mountain climbing, included in the traditional marches organized by the hiking associations, cultural tourism, including events such as the Strumica Carnival, Strumica Open, tourism in monasteries, churches, waterfalls and more. 

Strumica has a fairly active organic producers’ community and it could become a part of the city’s offer to attract tourists interested in a healthy food and lifestyle. 

Veles:

The municipality is currently investing funds in urbanization and development of the space around Lake Mladost, which has the highest potential for tourism development in the city, and activities are planned for the future provision of access to the site “Peshti”, located on River Babuna in Veles. The Municipality of Veles is planning to prepare a strategy for tourism development in the municipality, with a special emphasis on the Veles Lake “Mladost” and the cultural specificities of the city. 

The tourist industry in Veles is especially characterized by city culture coming from the architecturally important old houses.

Regarding the private sector, there are already several hotels situated on the shores of Lake Veles, and another one is being currently constructed. Additionally, the public sector, specifically the Municipality of Veles, has undertaken activities for developing the space around the lake. A running track has been constructed in a ring around the lake, and many gazebos have been places at frequent spots around the lake. The Municipality of Veles has started implementation of the project “Smart Lake Mladost – First Innovative Tourist Destination”. This project predicts installment of lighting around the lake, constructing a pedestrian path along the road, construction of a playground for children with appropriate equipment, improve the access to existing buildings, placement of information signs, waste bins, etc.

 

According to data from the State Statistical Institute, every year, there are about 10,000-11,000 tourists visiting the Municipality of Veles, out of which 7,000-7,500 are international tourists and 3,000-3,500 are national tourists. The location of Lake Mladost along highway Е-75 enables many tourists to visit the lake during transit. Currently around 100 citizens are included in the tourism industry or 0.10 percent of the population.

Involved stakeholders

Municipality – economic development division and the strategic planning division, urban planning division.

Private investors and citizens interested in developing the tourists base (e.g. hoteliers, Bed&Breakfast, AirBnB hosts, local restaurant owners etc.)

Local specialty food producers (wine makers, cheese makers, organic farms, local specialty shops and.

Cultural centers and historic center management.

Local economic development organizations, tour guide associations etc.

Desired outcome

Easily accessible, attractive information about the tourist opportunities in North Macedonia – specifically Veles, Strumica and Gostivar.

Things to think about

  • If you are thinking about a mobile app: creating a general app for tourism is not a great idea – there are too many solutions in the market that try to support tourists. Instead, try to think about a specialty tourism app or a regional app that will offer something new in this market. 
  • Think about the ways in which Macedonia can excel in the region full of tourists and focus on this unique value proposition. 
  •  You may want to think about supporting either local or international tourists – not both groups at the same tie since their needs may be very different.
  • Think about ways where the municipality officials would  not have to invest large amounts of money in a successful project. Some ideas may include using citizen-generated information, mapping tourist attractions by tourists themselves, creating incentives for people to become a part of creating the tourist information or solutions. If you develop something that needs to be constantly sustained by the municipality, this may not work out. 
  • In your solution, you may want to focus on one aspect of this challenge (e.g. showing tourist local products OR creating a map of local attractions using crowdsourced information…) and not all of the at the same time, which is very difficult. 
  • It is worthwhile researching whether there is an international app for the Balkan region – if not, there may be a great opportunity there. If yes, maybe there is a possibility to create something more specialized (e.g. agritourism?) for the region.

What is going on in the world?

Acre – one of the municipalities in Israel contacted an international app with millions of users and they jointly organized a campaign to promote the routes and tourist attractions in the city, without actually developing something new on their own. The app called Wishtrip resulted in a successful promotion campaign which increased the number of tourists visiting this area.

For the local tourists that like to trek and hike, the Israeli app Tiuli offers a map of thousands of walking routes with different parameters to choose from (the length of the trek, its difficulty, attractiveness, time of year to get there etc.) – the treks have been submitted by the users of the app, who were co-creators of the content

CHALLENGE 3: Services offered by municipalities are not accessible

Challenge

Municipal services are accessible only inside the premises of the municipal building

Short description

Local governments around the world are using technology more and more to make services to citizens available online. However, most of the services provided by the municipalities in the country are only available inside the municipal premises. This means that citizens have to physically get to the municipality and wait in line, often for hours, in order to access the service they need. This is not efficient, it generates a lot of paperwork and the whole process is not always transparent. Also, very often, the citizens are not aware of all the types of services offered by the municipality.

As a part of this challenge, try to think about the technological ways to help make the municipal services accessible online or automated (entirely or partially) and/or give the citizens a transparent way to understand what services are offered and how they can obtain them.

Current state

Currently, the municipal services are offered in the municipality building and require getting to the municipality building in order to obtain them (incl. payments for municipal services that are not offered online or services offered to businesses). 

Moreover, the information about the services is mostly distributed in the municipality itself or on the website, which rarely makes the services transparent and accessible. Many citizens say that they know some of the information can be accessed through websites, but they claim that these websites are not user-friendly and do not provide clear information about services and products mapping. 

Two main issues:

  • Lack of information related to services and products in the municipality/region. 
  • Lack of automatized services (or at least of one priority service for the business community or for the citizens).

In the Municipality of Veles, which has the most advanced e-services system among the Macedonian municipalities, a system for e-services has been introduced where all the services have been standardized in a single location. Each service is related to a service card that citizens can use to receive brief and clear information on how they can receive the services, whom they should address, the amount of the administrative fee and which documents they should submit. At the same time, citizens can download the forms from the system, which saves time. In addition to e-services, the service cards are located physically in the citizen service center. 

Although it is already a great improvement, it still requires citizens to come with the downloaded and filled-out forms to the municipality in order to request the service. Also, citizens still often come to the municipality building before they even look at the website for more information.

Involved stakeholders

Municipality employees (different departments)

Citizens and local businesses

Sometimes other services providers in the city (e.g. municipal payments related to water, gas, waste collection etc.)

Desired outcome

Innovative and user-friendly way for citizens to get information about available municipal services and how to obtain them.

Innovative and easy-to-use “map” of municipal services, events and opportunities. 

An easy and inexpensive (for the municipality) way to obtain a chosen municipal service (or services) that is highly demanded and important.

Things to think about

  • You do not have to solve all these challenges with one solution –Pick one that you think would be the most useful for citizens. 
  • There are two specific challenges here that are connected: transparency and access to e-services. You do not need to solve them at once. Also, in a “E-services” category, there are many different services (payments, obtaining permits and licenses, obtaining IDs and passports…) which are very different in nature. Focus on one type of challenge and not on all of them at the same time. 
  • Think about those issues related to services and their transparency and try to validate them with the citizens that you know in order to understand the current process and why it works badly. Also, we can connect you to the municipality employees who can explain to you their current difficulties. Make sure you understand the processes first before you start thinking about potential solutions.

What is going on in the world?

  • Some municipalities around the world open “digital kiosks” that offer e-services in different places in the city, e.g. in Pristina, Kosovo, the local government offers some services in the e-kiosks belonging to the city.
  • These days, many local services can be easily transformed into digital activities, e.g. municipal payments have become digitalized in many countries worldwide. 
  • If it may be still difficult to offer e-service, start from mapping the services and offering transparency first. However, such mapping should work better than simply putting the information in yet another website or a map. Think about chatbots and other ways of making information-sharing a conversation.
CHALLENGE 4: How can we create an efficient Space Sharing service for citizens, NGOs and businesses?

Challenge

Space is an important asset that can create opportunities for citizens, NGOs and businesses to offer interesting activities and events for the local population. How can we use the space owned by the municipality for such activities in an efficient, safe and easy-to-use (and easy to coordinate!) way?

Short description

Municipalities often have space and premises that are mainly used only during working hours. After that, this space is empty and it could be offered for activities organized by different groups (CSOs, business, individuals etc.) for the benefit of the citizens. 

However, this is not happening now because the municipality representatives do not have time to manage that, local organizations or individuals are not aware of such options, and online space booking is currently not available.

Think about ways that can help municipalities share their resources – especially their free space – that will make a difference in their communities. Remember to use technology in a simple way that even people who are not tech-savvy may enjoy using your solution.

Current state

Municipalities have unused space that they’d like to offer to the local businesses, individuals, NGOs. 

Many organizations struggle to find a place to teach or offer extra-curricular activities. 

Both of these groups can be supported by introducing an efficient way to use the resources.

Involved stakeholders

Municipality representatives.

NGOs and NSOs, local businesses, individuals

Different population groups (pupils, senior citizens, students, etc.)

Desired outcome

An easy way to share municipal resources for a public good, economic development and education.

Things to think about

  • Remember that many people who might want to use the resources are not technologically savvy
  • Make sure you make the solution easy for municipal employees to manage – otherwise they will not use it. 
  • There may be a need to rate the users based on how they are using (or abusing) the space and block some people or businesses from using these spaces – think about the right tools for that in advance.
CHALLENGE 5: Supporting elderly residents in services and daily interactions with others

Challenge

Elderly residents have difficulties to access social and medical services and they are lonely

Short description

Elderly residents need support and assistance in their daily activities since many of them live alone, and have difficulties getting out of their homes. The authorities do not have enough human resources to deliver social services to a population that stays at home and it is difficult for them to get regular updates about the residents’ personal needs and current status. On top of that, senior citizens often feel lonely and do not have enough interactions with others, particularly if they live in secluded areas.

How can we support the senior citizens or manage the efforts of individuals and NGOs helping them in order to ensure better access to needed services?

Current state

Many elderly residents need support and assistance in their daily activities. These include medical and social services. This challenge is even more significant when it comes to disabled people, who have difficulties getting out of their homes.

The municipalities have difficulties to provide social services for elderly residents for two main reasons:

  1. Lack of human resource that will provide the services. Although the reforms in the Law on Social Protection enable the delivery of services by authorized citizen associations, there are difficulties to deliver services to a broad population that tends to stay at home.
  2. Lack of information regarding the residents’ personal needs and current status. Currently, municipalities receive the information about senior citizens’ needs and issues from open days with residents, citizewn and NGO requests, and by cooperating with institutions that work with elderly residents. However, the gathered information is not always updated and adjusted to the specific needs of every resident. Also, there is a difficulty to stay updated regarding which resident was visited, what services were provided, and updated needs.

Some programs exist which focus on organizing social activities. NGOs or municipal organizations manage these programs. In Strumica, volunteers of the Red Cross visit elderly residents as a part of the project “home care for the elderly”.

In Veles, organizations such as the Association of Retirees, the municipal organization of Red Cross Veles, and municipal organization of women retirees are involved in such programs. For example, in the “home care for the elderly” program in Veles, volunteers visited 60 elderly residents at home assisting with medical issues and daily activities. In addition, the municipality has prepared a plan to develop an interactive map which will include all the lonely elderly residents in the city, so that programs can be developed to assist them by volunteers, NGOs, etc.

Involved stakeholders

Red Cross, volunteers, elderly residents and their families, NGOs and municipal organizations (Association of Retirees, the municipal organization of Red Cross Veles, municipal organization of women retirees), municipality.

Desired outcome

Provide innovative services to elderly residents that stay at home in an efficient way.

Provide relevant services based on the elderly persons’ personal needs.

Streamline service delivery without increasing human resource, but including volunteering services.

Things to think about

  • Elderly residents tend to have low technological skills. They might not be the users of the solution.
  • There are existing programs that can be harnessed for the solutions.
  • Understanding how to manage the needs of the elderly population can be a key for efficient allocation of the involved organizations.
  • The solution may address one or a few aspects of the challenge, e.g. creating a better way to distribute volunteers and make sure that the elderly population gets regular visits from them can be a great start. Another potential direction could be creating tech tools to encourage more people to volunteer with the elderly, for instance by showing them the needed support in their neighborhood.

WHERE: PLACE, Skopje

WHEN: 11-12th September 2019

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