The collective analysis of the problem shed light on a single major problem: the absence of data. If officials could have access to data, information gaps could be bridged so authorities can take better and increasingly informed decisions.
The latter materialized in proposing that a two-way communications system between authorities and the citizenry could be a useful mechanism for people to express their worries and for authorities to collect meaningful data.
The next step was then to find out whether there existed tools that could serve this purpose. After carrying a thorough analysis it was noticed that, in fact, there exist multiple citizen reporting tools. FixMyStreet and Ushahidi amongst the most popular. In the case of Latin America we found Mapeando and Por Mi Barrio and quickly established contact with both to learn from their experience. Finally, inspired on all of these tools, their format and functionalities we took off to design our own citizen reporting tool that could contribute to the risk management efforts carried out by the Municipality of Quito.
Mi Quito Reporta is the official name of the citizen reporting tool designed for strengthening the risk management strategy of the Municipality of Quito
During the Cotopaxi hype the citizenry experienced extensive local government action; drills were carried out, sirens installed, evacuation routes drawn and promoted and TV and radio ads dealing with prevention measures were massively broadcasted. Today, however, the municipality has no data that can indicate the impact of such actions. Were the drills effective? Can people living in risk zones actually hear the sirens go off? Do people know their evacuation routes or have they internalize prevention measures? Today none of these questions can be answered accurately. Therefore, the impact of the risk management efforts cannot be assessed with certainty and it is only through people that local officials can be informed on these matters.
With the intention to solve this situation citizens will soon be able to report to local authorities via Mi Quito Reporta on how they feel about the risk management efforts carried out thus far. The data generated through such reports will be colour-coded in order to differentiate between topics such as maps usability and evacuation routes accuracy, to name a couple examples. Additionally, reports will be geo-referenced so that city officials can read the situation on the ground at a simple glance. This will allow prioritizing issues according to what the areas of the territory reveal. The system is open for users to suggest additional categories, which paves the way to surface information from citizens that was not anticipated by the platform’s developers. And last, but not least, the tool offers easy-to-read descriptive statistics on what people are reporting most overall and by categories.
The tool is ready (beta version) as a web service and soon will be ready for download for Android and iOS. Additionally, the system is being set-up so people can send their reports via SMS. The ultimate objective of Mi Quito Reporta is to support the process of fine-tuning public action and increasing public trust and confidence on municipal risk management capabilities.
Important to note is the short and mid term nature of the response. Reports will not be taken care of individually. Instead, it will be the aggregate of all citizen reporting what will inform local authorities periodically about the situation on the territory. The data collected will subsequently aid officials in better-designing risk management plans.
More important than the features, however, is the program that will be created around it. During this pre-launch phase various questions have come up. How to get people to use the tool? How will it be communicated? Will we actually get local government to respond to requests? Will this information push citizens to take action? We are well aware that this is is just a tool and that for people to use it must be designed under a human-centered logic. And for local authorities to respond, we must seek to have the greatest visibility possible of the data that will be generated; it’s all about bringing decision-makers to the table with data at hand and “people watching” in the most positive manner possible.
Citizen sensing offers an infinite possibility for the public sector to innovate by letting people participate in data-gathering and taking their input into account for the betterment of the public services provided. It is inevitable to look ahead and project such integrated citizen reporting system as a basic tool for increasing response from local government; in this case fine-tuning risk management response vis a vis a potential volcano eruption. Meanwhile, we will continue to explore how technology can contribute to innovation in governance.
Taken from Quito Labs, 2015