Councillors monitor WiFi Hotspots in São Paulo

This week we returned to São Paulo to work with participatory councillors from 3 different regions of São Paulo to monitor projects included in Mayor Haddad’s goals plan for the 2013-2016 period. Rather than focusing on projects specific to their districts, participants selected a goal that called for the installation of 42 free WiFi hotspots throughout the city. According to the official site for City Hall, 120 hotspots have installed to date — far surpassing the initial goal — but participants reported having trouble connecting in many areas in their district.

The team set up a campaign to verify the presence of WiFi signal and signage in designated areas, whether users were able to connect to the internet using the network, and whether it was necessary to register for an account to gain access.

Results for initial WiFi data collection
Results for initial WiFi data collection

The group travelled to the center of the city to monitor 6 different public spaces designated as WiFi hotspots. Though the group found that signage and signal were visible in all areas they visited, the quality of connection was incredibly spotty. In many areas users were able to load an initial webpage but unable to navigate once connected. True to the stated goal, registration accounts were not needed to connect to the network at any of the sites we visited.

After our initial data collection, councillors identified several points, including a more detailed assessment of connection quality, that they hope to add to the campaign before disseminating to a wider audience. The team was excited at the prospect of engaging a much broader cross-section of the city’s residents in the campaign due to the nearly universal interest in securing free WiFi.

Following the workshop on Thursday, we met with researchers at the Federal University of Santo André, São Bernardo do Campo and São Caetano (UFABC) who are currently conducting a formal assessment of WiFi hotspots for City Hall. We look forward to connecting councillors with the research team to see how they might collaborate on launching a parallel crowd-sourced assessment using Promise Tracker.