Of Roadworks and iPhones

While you're reading this, if you own an iPhone, go download the app and keep it on your phone until it's needed. It's free, and it's tiny.

And it's potentially extremely useful.

We live in an age of rapid information flow, but sometimes it seems that some organisations, particularly in local or national government, haven't quite got that memo yet - as my recent travails with the Post Office showed. MySociety is an organisation that exists to counter those delays, and help information flow freely to and from both local and national government. They, as volunteers, do a stunning job.

One of their sites (and they now have many) is "Fix My Street" site, designed as a convenient way to report minor (or major) problems with our roads. I'm sure we've all seen potholes, missing signs, broken streetlamps, and would have been quite happy to report them and get them fixed if we had the faintest clue how. The Fix My Street website is a good start, but you still have to remember the problem and get round to locating and reporting it when you get home.

Or, if you've got their new iPhone App on your phone ready, you can do it in-situ, have the phone's location services place you precisely, and take a picture of the problem while you're at it.

Reporting the problem is a two-step process; you provide basic information (enough to record the problem) in the application, and then receive an email with a confirmation link which takes you to a page where you can complete the process, adding a category and further detail. (Personally I'm not hugely keen on the two-step data entry, and I've given my feedback so we'll see whether any changes arise). The email confirmation step is common to pretty much all of MySociety's sites, as to be useful they *must* be kept nuisance-free.

Your report is then mailed to the right department of the right council (and that's the really useful bit!) to allow action to be taken. You can then see any other local issues reported and give feedback as to whether your own has been fixed. It's effectively crowdsourced bug reporting for towns and cities. And it's an excellent, if minor use of communications technology and mobile platforms.

Like I said; download it, install it, and forget it. It's tiny (0.1MB) and it'll sit on your phone and wait until it can help fix your town.
Posted by parsingphase, 2008-12-12 21:13

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