Networks: Yugoslav cities
Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade
At this moment, in Yugoslavia there are certain indications of Civic Networks
(CN). This research is dealing with identifying the development stages
of CN in the cities of Yugoslavia. This paper will present the results
of an analysis of CN according to the content and types of information,
city management affairs in which they are used, types of communication
they provide, structure and method of presentation, development strategies,
target groups they are intended for, way and sources of financing. Different
types and different levels of city network development have been recognized.
Their difference tells us about the differences among the areas they cover,
as well as of different approaches to their position and role in the development.
The selection represents the potential for further development and usage
of telematic applications. On the basis of this and similar analyses it
would be possible to establish a necessary informational basis intended
for defining development strategies of civic networks in Yugoslavia and
shape a structure of civic informational network content in terms of its
usage in city planning domain.
"The only way to achieve a sustainable future is to envolve the public
in the design and decision-making process"
. Contemporary advanced informational and communicational technologies
(ICT) provide efficient processing and picturesque presentation of information,
a direct contact with the public, i.e. perception of a new pattern of
life quality management.
Local administrations are faced with considerable pressure, increasing
requirements of citizens for better services, lower prices, better transparency
and clearness of decision-making process and administrative procedures.
Contemporary informational and communicational technologies and telematic
applications can be a very efficient instrument in the strategy which
local authorities follow in trying to accomplish mentioned expectations
One of standard civic services developed as a response to these growing
needs is the civic network (CN). "A civic network is a system organized
to ensure distribution and collection of local information and provide
exchange and interactive communication to the users. CN is
intended for a very specific physical space, namely a city. Basic objectives
of CN existance are to provide access to information, democratic participation
of citizens and community development"
. CNs increase the efficacy of public administration, ensuring a closer
relationship with citizens and their involvement in decision-making process,
i.e their assistance in creating a more uniform distribution of responsibility.
2. Objectives and purpose
The objective of this research is to acknowledge the role and importance
of Civic Networsk in the cities of Yugoslavia. City administrations in
Yugoslavia have started to recognize the potentials of contemporary Informational
and Communicational Technologies (ICT) and their
significance for socio-economical development of a city. The fact has
been recognized that production and distribution of information is becoming
a competitive factor in regard to production in traditional sense.
In ex-Yugoslav countries at the moment there are signs of emerging civic
networks. However, since there are still no institutions dealing with
application and development of ICT, nor any regulations in this field,
the CNs of Yugoslav cities have emerged spontaneously. We cannot talk
about a systemized structure and organized methodological approach.
We can, however, recognize different levels of development, institutional
and organizational arrangements, motives of launching, i.e. very different
occurring forms of CNs, therefore basic objectives of this research are:
The research is focused on observing and analysing the contents available
on the sites of Yugoslav cities, as well as on interviews with those involved
in creation and implementation of telematic policies and technologies.
3. Area of research
Currently, within the territory of Yugoslavia there are about fifty city
sites. Territorial distribution of CNs has the following characteristics:
- the highest concentration of CNs is noted around big cities, i.e.
within economically most developed areas;
- the highest CN density is in the northern part of the country (the
province of Voivodina, Belgrade included);
- the highest number of official CNs is in the northern part of the
country (the province of Voivodina, Belgrade inlcuded).
1 - Territorial
distribution of civic networks in Yugoslavia
3.1. Founders of CNs
Concerning the issue of CN creation and maintenance, as well as usage
of electronic communication in the processes and affairs of city development
management here, we can talk about partial initiatives of certain planning
agencies, certain local communities, efforst of some private companies
dealing with creation and sales of the tools in this field.
A survey has shown that only about 30% of the sites have been initiated
by local managments, i.e. that all others have occurred under the initiative
of and by certain provider agencies, various informatics associations
or independent individuals. This means that majority of CNs have not been
initiated as a support to local community government nor in order to improve
the quality of life or services. The reasons are huge and inert administrative
systems of city governments, as well as the lack of funds for infrastructure
and organizational changes. On the other hand, private sector, being more
adaptable and efficient, has managed to acknowledge economical potentials
of CNs and uses them as promotional means for those aspects of a city
that are of their individual (groups of individual) interests.
3.2. Development policy and regulations
concerning the development and application of urban telematics
Benefits and advantages of using ICT, especially the Internet, for the
development of a city are enormous. Quality of regulations, i.e. the "comfort"
of legislation covering the usage of the Internet, makes a city or a state
attractive for investors interested in investing in ICT.
A rapid increase of using the internet has been recorded in Yugoslavia
lately, so that it is becoming necessary to introduce some legal measures
in order to ensure organized and undisturbed development and application
of ICT. Usage of the Internet, availability of the Internet contents,
structures and contents of CNs, as well as the policy of providing access
to wider population, are the issues not yet solved in Yugoslavia. Also
no measures have been taken to motivate responsible usage through education
of wider population.
4. Structure of research
This is an empirical research of CNs in Yugoslav cities to be conducted
on two levels. On the first level, all civic networks shall be analyised
in order to determine the topics and services most frequently present.
On the next level only a certain number of local government web sites
shall be analysed in more details, since this research deals mostly with
the ICT applicability in the work of local governments. The fact that
CNs are considered an important communicational tool supporting the management
of local community development makes the city government one of the most
important parts in the process of ICT implementation aiming at better
city development. This detailed analysis shall be done with two aspects:
content and visual characteristics of the presentations.
This paper will present the results of civic network analyses in regard
1. Usefulness and applicability of the site: Analysis of topics included;
2. Role of the city government in ICT application: City government and
3. Application of ICT in the city affairs: Strategies, programmes, plans,
CN projects; Participation of the citizens; Public relations; Involved
4. Communicability: Analysis of the quality and types of communication
from visual, consumer's and technical points of view;
5. Coordination of digital and physical city: Identity of a virtual city;
6. Changeability in respect to the city life: Updating and modernization.
Different types and different development levels of CNs have been noted.
The differences among them speak about different environments that they
cover, as well as about different views on their position and role in
4.1. Usefulness - analysis of
contents and topics
Benefits that urban telematics can bring to cities and regions through
CNs are recognized in the following areas:
- Regional cooperation: interlinkage of civic, regional and national
- Inclusion of citizens in the political life;
- Telematics as means of social integration;
- Providing access and participation to handicapped citizens;
- Public administration: interlink among administrative departments
aiming at the support and improvement of data exchange between administration
and citizens; this ensures higher efficacy and speed and lower cost
- Employment: information on the employment possibilities as a support
to the unemployed and reduction of unemployment;
- Online access to multimedial information about culture, entertainment
and tourism at local, regional and national levels;
- Environmental issues: informativeness, monitoring and environment
- Network of schools and colleges;
- Library services;
- Distance learning - educational systems available to all citizens;
- Health protection: links among all partners in the health protection
- Transportation: improved usage of transportation network;
- Telework: new flexible forms of working place conception;
- Electronic tenders: ensures the openess between administration and
Analysis of YU CNs shall re-examine the presence, number and development
of above topics.
4.2 Local government and telecommunications
Local governments attach more and more importance to the development and
creation of informational infrastructure as a support to the community
in order to improve social and economical development. Nowadays, entire
successfulness of the cities can be measured by
fineness and diffusion of the usage of telecommunications and informational
products and services. Some of the basic conditions for procedure democratization
are access to information and transparency of all affairs connected to
public interest and community benefits.
4.3 City development and application
Thanks to the ICT application, i.e. the Internet and telematics, the biggest
portion of economic activities can be removed and placed anywhere. It
presents a totally new environment for local governments. CNs, i.e. local
government sites, make it possible to promote economic activities and
potentials for their alocation.
4.3.1 Strategies, programmes,
plans and projects on the Internet
Plans on the Internet are only one of the means for better planning and
efficient realization of city planning projects, and only one of telematic
services on CNs. Providing access to such data basis to all those interested
in spacial construction enusres much better information on
conditions and possibilities of the market. This not only improves competition
but provides better selection as well.
Under the circumstances of rapid development and wide usage of contemporary
means of communication providing access to the plans via the Internet,
it is possible to react faster, to have better control over the public
in the field of land transactions, to be better informed, i.e. to contribute
to democratization of city development management.
Applied ICT contributes to better planning, more efficient and effective
process of preparation, realization and supervision of the plans, their
monitoring, promotion and placement, i.e. better communication among all
4.3.2 Participation of citizens
Prevailing urban topics of our time are participation and inclusion of
the public in the process of plan preparation and decision making. Interest
and possibilities of a community may be provoked by using new communicational
technologies. An intensive effort is made to enable
interaction between those dealing with plan preparation and individuals
or groups of interested citizens, with the main principle being that the
planner himself is not the only one who creates but that he should do
that in cooperation with interested citizens.
A city should provide information to a big number of market segments.
Also, political and social aspect should be presented on each government
site for various types of users. In regard to target groups of people
for whom a site is intended, there are two kinds of information:
- Local population: it foucuses on the city corporation, local government
and local services, etc.;
- World/global: culture, tourism, lifestyle, business, etc.
4.4 Communicability: Analysis
of the quality and types of communication
Modern ICT provides new forms of communication in qualitative sense. These
new communications are characterized with the following qualities and
advantages: intensivity, illustrativeness and accessibility
. Virtual information can easily be recognized and easily responded to.
CNs must make use of all advantages of new technologies in order to ensure
better cooperation among interested participants.
4.4.1 Communicability of a presentation
from visual point of view
In virtual world, communication by symbols is a counterpart to the role
of urban design in the life of a real city. The means are graphics and
informational design. "Virtual world should not be seen as an alternative
to the real world or its substitute, but an extra dimension which allows
us new freedom of movement in the natural world".
Besides the content analysis, it is extremely important to pay attention
to the quality of visual communication itself. Hence, we recognize basic
CN types with:
1. Dominant text;
2. Dominant graphic presentations and illustrations;
3. Combination of text and illustrations.
The site itself must be user friendly, but also of such appearance to
attract and motivate people to use that web site.
4.4.2 Types of communication
- from technical point of view
Irrespective of motives and content of communication, we can recognize
three forms of communication attainable via network:
1. Access to information;
3. Interactive communication.
The following electronic services can be identified as available to CNs
so that they can realize above types of communication: online access to
data bases, e-mail, newsgroups, File Transfer Protocol, Chat, billboards,
electronic payment, electronic polls, worksheets and documents, electronic
verification and execution and video servis.
Progressive expansion assumes better usage of multimedia (multimedial
mail, high-speed file transfer and video services, inlcuding video-on-demand)
and new services such as automatic translation, speech recognition, and
graphical user interfaces.
4.5 City identity - coordination
of a digital and physical city
A web site is new environment of a city. It certainly is not only a new
way of communication between a city government and its citizens or wider
community. It is a symbolic presentation of a city. That is why a symbiosis
of a city and its virtual presentation must be achieved.
It is reflected in "moving" the specificities of a real city
to its presentation. Usage of telematics must not eliminate local specificities.
It is necessary to coordinate the image and identity of the city presented
on the web with those of the real city.
4.6 Changeability in respect to
the city life: Updating and modernization
It is necessary to continuously monitor the needs of the community and
changes in the city life in order to respond to them as adequately as
possible. A city presentation has to be made in accordance with these
needs and changes and it has to present the city life in as short periods
of time as possible. Also, city networks have to be updated regularly
with the inclusion of technological improvements as a must.
5. CNs of Yugoslavia
WWWs of Yugoslav cities have been analyzed in regard to the content categories
they cover. Table 1 shows this coverage in percentage.
1. Content categories and their percentages on the contents
of the Yu Civic Networks council sites.
Despite the fact that the site content changed during the research so
that some of the findings are not valid any more and despite the fact
that the cities differ in size and other characteristics, we still consider
the results relevant. Generally they do show the character of the sites
and the most dominant topics:
1. The most frequent topics are culture, news, city life, sport, history
2. Those following include local information, leisure, promotions of political
structures and advertisments of economic activities in a given city.
3. All other topics are equally present/not present
4. The fact of great relevance for this research is that the topics concerning
city development planning, environmental issues and citizen participation
are insufficiently covered.
6. Detailed analysis and typology
of Yugoslav CNs
Analysis of official CNs reveals four types of WWW presentations. Typology
has been done on the basis of site structure complexity, i.e. its usefulnees
and types of communication it provides (see Figure 2). Hence there are:
- Developed civic networks. Characteristics: two-way and complex communication:
(1) cooperation and (2) interaction; developed supply of information.
- Civic networks. Characteristics: one-way communications - simple access
to information and modest possibility of interaction; developed supply
- Civic presentations. Characteristics: basic information - a simple
review referring to the classic system of obtaining information; basic
supply with simple information.
- Civic picture postcards.
has been done based on site structure complexity, i.e. its usefulness
and types of communication it provides.
2. Best cases of official CNs recognised in Yugoslavia.
Although the cities vary in size and development level, we believe that
the selection represents potentials for further development and usage
of telematic applications.
Selecting the representative cities we tried to present best cases of
official CNs recognised in Yugoslavia. Each of the selected 4 case studies
represents a different approach to management, design, development and
usage of telematic applications, i.e. to understanding of the role of
CNs in city development.
7. Conclusion, guidelines, development
The Civic Nets expansion in Yugoslavia could be detected and traced
since the mid 90's, and there is an increasing demand for its further
development. However, many shortcomings are evident as well: (1) the national
strategy related to it is rather weak and underdeveloped; (2) the economy
in the country is rather vague and vulnerable; for the time being, other
issues are prioritized; (3) the technical infrastructure needed to provide
the support and assistance is not evenly nor adequately developed; it
is mostly concentrated in a more developed central and northern part of
the country; (4) the majority of population do not have an access to computers/the
Internet, nor are likely to have it in a near future; (5) the computer
"literacy", on average, is rather low; the affluent, young and
middle aged urban professionals or students are the predominant groups
of users, while the others are insignificantly presented.
An analysis of good examples of the cities with quality CNs, as well as
the study of EU programmes and project, makes it possible to define the
following recommendations and guidelines for further development of YU
- Civic networks have to be institutionalized;
- A significant mass of users has to be provided with the help of public
network terminals for those citizens who do not have their own PCs;
- Network groups of information have to be updated on a daily basis;
- Permanent electronic monitoring has to be provided offering information
not only about the number of "visitors" to certain presentations,
but also about their interests, sex, education, age;
- Increase efficacy, improve the quality of services and achieve better
relationship with the citizens;
- Provide political support, especially from the mayor;
- Ensure public-private partnership and economic justification;
- Ensure better ties between those dealing with the development of telematics
and key people having influence over the changes in major administrative
- Clarify responsibilities and provide transparency of the processes;
- Include people of different cultures and skills into the process of
- Ensure financial support of different institutions.
A tool or a very powerful means of influence on city development, telematics
should be treated together with all other issues connected to the functioning
of a city and the quality of life in it: infrastructure systems, habitation,
schools, parks, etc. In making plans, besides all other necessary topics,
attention should be paid to furnishing space with telecommunicational
A site structure requires an interdisciplinary and multifunctional view
that includes the government (mayor, counselors, etc.), city companies
(agencies, public services,
), graphic designers, marketing companies,
community representatives, etc.
An official web site is highly important for a local community. Recognition
of the importance of this new tool by local community and citizens depends
on the quality of the site structure itself, ease of understanding, but
also on the knowledge of the citizens themselves and their capability
to use new and unknown technologies.