Vortal Cultural Warsaw

URBACT Conference „eContent and using culture as a tool„, Tallin, 2005


Vortal „Cultural Warsaw” is a part of integrated portal of the City of Warsaw „Virtual capital – Warsaw eGovernment Portal”. Its most significant element is information, updated daily, on current cultural events and on institutions of culture.

Interactive and intuitive calendar facilitates the planning of free time. Events are divided into clear categories which facilitate the search, and the makes the details of an event easy to grasp. Every information contains a date, location, prices and a detailed description of the event.

Institutions registered in the system enter directly the information on events Web content management system is used in editing. Approximately 70 cultural institutions cooperate with us.

The system of cultural information will be enriched by interactive services making use of transaction systems (e-ticket, e-hotel, etc.).

The total number of visits in the portal of „Virtual capital” has stabilized at the level of 900,000 visits, while the number of users is above 190,000 per month. Statistic Internet user spends 4 minutes and 24 seconds on reading our news, 74.1% of visits on the website are from the Warsaw hosts. About 6% of visitors use the information published in the vortal „Cultural Warsaw”.

Specific problem

Reports on functioning of Polish official websites show that 63% of Internet users visit sites of offices and public institutions. Visits of public institutions’ websites are mainly of informative character. Half of the visits takes place out of „sheer curiosity” of citizens who view the pages of their city but at the same time realize that if they actually want to get to know anything, they have to go to the city hall in person.
More than half of the respondents are interested in gmina activity on the Internet. However, research shows that the interest of the citizens does not correspond to the frequency of use of city halls websites – the greatest number of respondents have visited websites of the city hall:
1. „only once” (21.8%),
2. „from time to time” 20% of the respondents,
3. „once in a few months” – 20.1%,
4. and only 1% of respondents „everyday”
According to analytics, such discrepancy is related to the fact that requirements of citizens of gmina towards official websites of local offices are higher then what is usually offered by the sites.

The Internet users expect to find on the websites of city halls some practical information on everyday life, as well as entertainment and recreation in their city. The most frequently pointed topics that should be concluded on the city hall’s websites are: culture, local and regional tourism, information on current events in the city, as well as issues connected with the labour market.

Similar problems have been noticed in Warsaw. In a questionnaire prepared by the City of Warsaw, citizens of the capital have indicated the need for an Internet portal of a citywide character, they have also indicated the lack of access to information on everyday life of the city. They have pointed the following information as most significant:
· Repertoires of cinemas, theatres, etc. (33%)
· Tourist information (32.7%)
· Cultural information (28.2%)
· Photographs of the City (26.7%)
· Information on history of Warsaw (26.7%)
· Warsaw communication map (21.6%)
· Warsaw Address guide (21.1%)
· Street map (20.1%)

While activating the project „Virtual capital”, we have defined its vision and aims.

Project vision

1. „Virtual capital – Warsaw eGovernment Portal” is a modern, interactive tool that creates the image of friendly, professional administration, which uses tools of IT society.

2. The portal shall be made of many different thematic modules, which describe the life of Warsaw, presented as an uniform entirety. Separate modules shall be connected by common architecture of the service, accepted graphical solutions and the way of content presentation.

3. As far as technological solutions are concerned the management of thematic modules shall be done through an Internet search tool with the use of intuitive interfaces which enable to add some content, arrange it and modify the catalogue structure. Departments that are responsible for managing their module directly shall edit the content.

Aim of the project

1. The essential aim of the project was to create a tool that would make it possible to provide administrative services, of quality equal to that of the private sector services ,through Internet to the citizens of Warsaw.
2. Creating of „e-office” open 24 hours/7 days a week.
3. Using the best solutions of business sector for providing services.
4. Gathering, in one place, information from official sources, and units subordinate to the City of Warsaw, as well as from organizations and social circles that enable to achieve and analyze selected, condensed information that ease the process of decision making.
5. Creating of an integrated way of content presentation, making use of the synergy effect while creating a consistent image of Warsaw.

„Virtual capital” project includes the following three main areas:
1. functional layer,
2. information layer
3. graphic area (layout).

General background

„Virtual capital”, because of the scope of topics it covered and due to its promotional function, focused on open presentation and friendly public administration, required simultaneous work on several projects at the same time. Thus, the best solution was to built a service consisting of module construction which enables independent build up of individual thematic groups (which present both subject matters – realized by individual Offices, and object matters – realized by thematic groups of editors).

The accepted concept of content presentation assumes the use of module solutions which are reserved homogeneous entirety, so its operating and management of the content presented does not depend on any other thematic areas. Separate modules are connected by a common architecture of the service, accepted graphical solutions and the way of content presentation. This solution was supposed to enable the use of synergy effect in creation of a consistent image of Warsaw.

A project prepared in that way was to enable to present, on one hand synthetic, integrated information included in the whole service, and on the other hand wide and detailed, thematically developed modules which form the whole portal.

As far as technological solutions are concerned, the management of thematic modules is in the direct competence of the City of Warsaw through Internet search tool with the use of intuitive interfaces which enable to add and edit content, to define links between documents and sets of documents, to arrange them and modify catalogue structure, to attach files – both predefined and the new ones. Departments that are responsible for managing their module directly were to edit the content themselves.

Such conclusions determined the type of tools used. It appeared impossible to built a static portal with the application elements entered on request, thus it was necessary to use the technology basing on web content management (WCM).


The pilot version of vortal „Cultural Warsaw” was activated in December 2003 (the final version in July 2004) and it met with a great interest of inhabitants as well as tourists who planned to visit Warsaw.

The most significant element of this vortal is that all the information on cultural events and on institutions is updated every day. Interactive and intuitive calendar facilitates planning of free time. Events are divided into clear categories which facilitate the search and makes the details of an event easy to grasp. Every information a date, location, prices and detailed description of the event.
To present updated cultural information we have created and implemented WCM system which enables to enter repertoire data directly by cultural institutions cooperating with us. The substantial evaluation is in the competence of Culture Department.

The City of Warsaw supervises work of the following local government culture institutions:
· youth culture centres – 7
· sport and recreation centres – 8
· public libraries – 18 (39 all)
· other centres of culture – 27 (56 all)
· museums – 3 (40 all)
· theatres – 18 (43 all)

These institutions have been authorized to enter repertoire information directly into the information system „Cultural Warsaw”, therefore, it was possible to provide information, quickly and directly to citizens, on cultural events and not only on the „large” ones but also on those which take place in the local micro community e.g. district culture centres, district clubs, etc.

Thanks to that system the information does not have to take the administration rout (which means it is not bureaucratized):

culture centre > culture department > promotion department > portal editing staff > portal


culture centre > portal

The system is equipped with module of editors authorization by login and password. On the basis of these parameters the system identifies the editor and his/her competences. Management of authorizations is in the competences of hosts (advanced users) who may assign an authorization of equal or lower level. Advanced users while assigning authorizations may indicate the set of documents under responsibility of specific editor (or group of editors).

Editing module which enables editors to edit the content is similar, in form as well as in the scope of its navigation solutions, to popular office packs, so the users could easily edit and change the published content.

Editors use the abovementioned models of websites which specify the way of presenting the basic elements of every page of document. Model specifies the way of presenting title, subtitle, way of content formatting and location of images.

Every edited document may be enriched by images (gif, jpg, png) which are located in catalogue or which are simply new (copied from the local drive).

The possibility to specify initial and final date of presenting a document is retained so it is possible to specify the period (number of days) as well as date from which the document is presented. Webpages „waiting” for presentation are clearly recognizable for editors.

Approximately 70 cultural institutions cooperate with us currently. The supervisor is the Culture Department. The system makes it also possible to perform independent interfaces related to specific events e.g. summer in the city action (recreation events for youth during summer holidays) or winter in the city (events during winter holidays).


On the request of the Promotion Department, users visiting the Internet service of the City of Warsaw have answered a questionnaire. The aim of the study was to become familiar with opinions concerning official Internet service of Warsaw, to identify its strong and weak aspects, to check the level of users satisfaction with the service and to recommend the way for increasing a number of service visitors.

The most significant conclusion of the study is high declared loyalty of users – above 90% of them declare to visit the website of the City of Warsaw again. At the same time, the users expect reliable information on Warsaw and the most interesting topics for them are those which concern current live of the capital city. The users find it necessary to create a city portal, which would cover in full the needs for information on Warsaw.

According to researchers who study Internet resources non-standard for Poland, i.e. information on age of the visitors, is also very interesting. There is approximately equal number of users corresponding to specific age groups, however users – age 25-34 are the largest representation (30.6%). Profile of service users is different from the Poland-wide profile due to the content of the Capital City website (it is usually to serious for the regular user looking first of all for entertainment). The researchers noted that the largest group of users who are from Mazowieckie Voivodship (73.6%) confirmed accurate addressing of content towards target groups interesting for the City of Warsaw. The number of users in that voivodship who were answering the questionnaire was similar.

The overall opinion on the service is positive – 60.1% of users find the service „rather good” or „definitely good”. Users visiting the website for a business purpose have assessed the site 6.7% higher than private users (total of answers „rather good” and „definitely good”). The fact that 16.6% of users find everything they need on the website means that it has been well prepared and that it provides required content.

According to the analysis users of the City of Warsaw service want the service to be of Warsaw-wide character. Information being presented should touch the whole spectrum of problems concerning citizens of Warsaw.

The number of users and visits has been systematically increasing. In 2004 the number stabilized at the level of 900,000 of visits, with the number of users of above 190,000 per month.
· 1,203,103 visits and 218,118 users were noted in April.
· Statistic Internet user spent 4 minutes and 24 seconds on reading of our news.
· 74.1% of visits of the website were from the Warsaw hosts.
· 5-8% visitors have used vortal „Cultural Warsaw”.


While preparing to invitation to tender for corporation WCM we have created the project on the basis of open source solution. This gives us possibility to change the „engine” (invisible for users part of portal software) without the necessity of changing the whole portal with the visual part. Till the end of the year we intend to finish the tender procedure and to transfer the whole portal to operate under professional tool WCM.

Beside developing of further thematic services (we started working on service concerning the presence of the city in EU, we have also been working on a service intended to non governmental organizations) we plan to „hand over” a part of the service to users. We would like to give all the users an opportunity to publish and maintain their private webpages on Warsaw on the city portal.