March 11, 2011

Power To The People

From potholes to garbage, broken street lights to vandalism...we want to get our community problems resolved.
There is a good-looking application called "SeeClickFix" for connecting people and government to point out problems and get them fixed, fast.
It works with iPhone, Droids, and Blackberries; integrates with Facebook and Twitter; and has dashboard reporting and alerts, as well as emails notifications to provide acknowledgements and status updates on issues.
Built on the Open311 model, which provides APIs to existing internal systems and processes, so citizens report non-emergency issues to government based on standardized, open-access, and interoperable systems.
Open 311 describes how it works:
"Using a mobile device or a computer, someone can enter information (ideally with a photo) about a problem...This report is then routed to the relevant authority to address...this information is available for anyone to see and...contribute more information...By making the information public, it provides transparency and accountability for those responsible for the problem."
According to an article, iCitizen, in Fast Company (December 2010-January 2011), reported problems from citizen's smartphones or computers can even be routed straight to dashboard computers on public works trucks, "meaning a click in the morning can lead to a repair in the afternoon."
Ok, this may still be more vision than reality at this time, but it is a noble vision, indeed!
This is an evolution from 311 phones systems in many cities which are one way communications from individuals calling into government call centers and then waiting, waiting, waiting to see if the problem gets resolved to instead applications like SeeClickFix as a highly visible cloud solution where many people can openly exchange information over the Internet on public issues--providing more information, even potentially rating and ranking them (i.e. helping set public priorities for allocating limited public resources to community problems).
This can even be coupled with suggestion platforms such as IdeaScale for crowd-sourced citizen input into urban planning and community health, safety, and livability issues.
As part of its Apps for Democracy contest, DC awarded a prize and grant for the development of FIxMyCityDC, a web-based application for submitting service requests, checking status by interactive maps, along with the option of the user getting a call when the problem is resolved.
This is huge progress from the prior endlessly annoying call centers and their Interactive Voice Response Units that previously took callers through a maze of pre-recorded numeric options that more-often than not ended in the users abandoning the call and service requests going unfilled.
This is a far better model of information sharing, collaboration and transparency to solve real everyday problems in our communities, and a great example of the power of e-Government.


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