Keeping tabs on graffiti, potholes or dumped rubbish has become easier for a number of local governments using a new mobile application that provides improved communication with citizens.
For the residents of the Shire of Manjimup in West Australia, reporting issues to council no longer means waiting in lines or in phone cues after the council adopted an app for submitting ideas and feedback.
Since July 2017, the Shire of Manjimup has been using Datacom’s Antenno app, which also allows local governments to send alerts and notifications to residents and visitors about roadworks or other occurrences in an area.
Datacom was recently named as a finalist in the IDC Smart City Awards in the civic engagement category.
Shire of Manjimup president Paul Omodei said the app has improved the community’s engagement with council.
“It’s much more convenient for people because they can report things when they find them, or take a photo and report later; they no longer need to find the right phone number or call into the Shire office or depot,” he said.
The application, which Datacom says is the first of its kind to offer two-way engagement with councils, also allows constituents to receive work updates from council if they wish.
Mark Matijevic, director of local government at Datacom, said the app not only allows greater community engagement but can help councils to better maintain assets and improve service delivery.
“Ratepayers can take a photo of any pothole or any issue, such as damaged playground equipment and send it through to council by going to the app,” he said.
The app also allows ratepayers to select places of interest to them so the app can send targeted alerts if, for instance, a park is closed or a river is unsafe to swim in, according to Mr Matijevic.
“In South Waikato District Council a rubbish truck broke down and they were able to send an antenna alert to anyone on route saying that the truck might be delayed.”
Immediate response, says NZ council
The application has been rolled out in Taupō District Council and South Waikato District Council in New Zealand.
Lisa Nairne, Taupō District Council’s head of communication, said there was an immediate response from ratepayers:
“We received the first reported issue within hours of it going live, which just shows the demand is out there. As a council, we are always looking for ways to make it easy for our customers to contact us and we are sure the reporting feature will make a marked difference to our customer experience.”
Communications manager at South Waikato District Council Kerry Fabrie the application immediately improved community engagement.
“We got our first report on day one, within three hours of us notifying our existing users,: she said.
Six Australian Councils and 10 New Zealand councils are currently in discussion with Datacom about taking on the application in their local areas.
Mr Matijevic said that the greatest challenge Datacom has had in rolling out technology such as the Antenno app is the prevalence of outdated systems in local government.
“By the time the project is implemented it’s so big most councils are quite fatigued that they don’t get to thinking about how to connect with the community. They need to get the community engagement first.”
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