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Kindly report: you have quite a mess there. Electronic whip for ads?

22 of March '23

"Report vandalism,„ "notify illegal dumping,” "take a picture of a platform defect," and so on. There are more and more apps that facilitate civic interventions. Some sensible, others—less so. As of recently, in Poznań, illegal advertising media can be reported in the app. Reporting is easy, but you will have to wait for the effect in public space.

Reporting illegal advertising carriers is another feature of the Smart City Poznań application. The possibility was added more than two weeks ago to pre-existing tabs such as, „cleanliness”,"roads", „environment” and „vehicles,” among others. The principle is simple: a citizen takes a photo of, for example, a billboard, marks its location on a map and sends this data via the app to officials.

Up to this point everything is simple, further on things get a bit muddled. What will happen to the applications? Tobiasz Wichnowski, deputy director of the City Planning and Architecture Department of the City Hall informs us:

All applications go to our department. We initially check whether approvals are issued for these designated carriers. Then we forward in larger packages these sifted by us to the relevant units. Thus, media from the Old Town area go to the Office of the City Historic Preservation Officer, from the road strip—to the City Roads Administration, from city properties—to the Real Estate Department. Each unit verifies the application in detail in terms of the regulations and ordinances relevant to it, and should then lead to the removal of all advertisements standing without issued approvals.

Aplikacja Smart City Poznań

Smart City Poznań application


rather out of the box

Depending on the legal situation, some cases will have to go to the District Building Inspector. How is a resident supposed to know if an advertisement is illegal? Wichnowski points out that the probability is very high, as estimates indicate that about 80 percent of the carriers are standing without permits. A group of anonymous online activists, Poznaniator, critical of the municipality, goes even further in its assessments. The group encourages residents of Poznań to report unauthorized signs, concluding its brief instructions with the following words:

The chances that you will report something wrong or unnecessarily are close to ZERO.

Zachęta do zgłaszania nielegalnych reklam na profilu inicjatywy Poznaniator

Encouragement to report illegal ads on the profile of the Poznaniator initiative

source: FB/Poznaniator

What should residents report first and foremost, given that a conservative estimate puts the number of all advertising devices in the city at 150,000? Here both Deputy Director Wichnowski and Poznaniator agree: priority should be given to „systemic” ads, i.e. the most space-invasive large billboards, citylights and related devices often owned by large outdoor companies. Wichnowski adds, however:

This does not mean that smaller banners and canvases should not be reported. We need this data, too, to get a full picture. However, the biggest pesters should be the first to go.

please do not repeat

The deputy director also notes that the map available in the app helps to see what has already been spotted and where, so as not to duplicate reports and create confusion. He stresses the great importance of the app in involving residents in activities for the space. In fact, despite the short duration of the new tab, there are quite a few marked points. It is a pity, therefore, that the city has not already collecteddata on illegal advertising in this way. Removal of media erected in the wild was done rather laboriously and on a relatively small scale, often in cooperation with PINB.

Smart City Poznań - mapa z zaznaczoną zakładką do zgłaszania nielegalnych reklam

Smart City Poznań—map with marked tab for reporting illegal advertisements

screenshot from the Smart City Poznan application

The solution to the problem was supposed to be expedited by the already long-delayed so-called landscape resolution finally passed by councilors in January this year. A month ago, however, the provincial governor invalidated it, because—as he found—there were three formal errors in it (more: here). One of them was precisely the division of advertising carriers into „legal” and „illegal”, thanks to which the latter were to disappear from the city almost immediately, while the former (of dimensions or location inconsistent with the resolution)—after a period of adjustment. Without going into details, it is worth mentioning that, according to the magistrate, it was the governor's decision that affected the rather convoluted system of dealing with applications described here earlier.

Smart City Poznań - mapa z zakładkami do zgłaszania problemów przez mieszkańców

Smart City Poznań—map with tabs for residents to report problems

A screenshot from the Smart City Poznań application

social hoarder

In doing so, the governor explained that illegal carriers can be removed and without a resolution. The city, pointing to its past experience, reported that this is much more tedious. However, it does not plan to fight the governor. It wants to take his comments into account and hopes to pass a resolution, this time successfully, in June. By the way, and this is a positive change, it shortens the adjustment periods for the entire city to one year (previously, depending on the area, they were to last from one to five years), so as to deal with illegal carriers as soon as possible using the provisions of the resolution. Meanwhile, with the help of the app and the involvement of residents, the magistrate is „arming” itself for the future battle. Wichnowski says:

Submissions from residents will allow us to create a social record of advertisements, which we will supplement and use primarily after the revised resolution comes into force. For now, therefore, we are „hoarding": collecting as much as possible, so that later we can efficiently and quickly process all the material. Nevertheless, we are already starting to transfer the first data packages to the relevant units. In mid-April, the MKZ Office will receive 60 locations of "system” advertising present in the conservation zone for us to check. Later we will create more „packages”.

It remains to be hoped, therefore, that the results of the submissions will be visible in the city in the shortest possible time. Otherwise, social activism and faith in the power of the new smart tools will weaken and will not be able to be used again for the benefit of the city.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast