Every morning I wait for the bus to work next to an overgrown field, a few weeks ago I spotted that someone had dumped about 10 beer kegs over the wall, so when I got to work, I used FixMyStreet to report the problem to my council. What follows is an except from an email I got from Sheffield Council:
"Please note that we are aware that Fix my street have been having technical problems and that we may have received your e-mail late, you may wish to consider contacting the Council direct in the future by visiting http://www.sheffield.gov.uk and using the A-Z of services to find the service you need."
The problem with that is, I don’t know what service I need, and going to the A-Z of services presents me with a list of letters, whereas FixMyStreet just lets me click on a map where the problem is, enter a few details, and then they handle the rest.
Services like FixMyStreet are invaluable because they provide a really easy interface to council services, whereas council portals must provide all information to all of it’s residents, and as a former employee of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s IT team, I know exactly how hard that is.
Some would argue that it is the councils job to provide services like FixMyStreet, but I would say that the council should concentrate on making the information they posses as accessible as possible, in formats that make it easy for other people to provide services like FixMyStreet.
A councils website is a massive undertaking, managing even the smallest councils web presence is a full time job for a team, and there simply isn’t the time in their schedule to develop tools like FixMyStreet, however other interested parties should be allowed access to the kind of data that councils hold, and they should be allowed to build services on top of that information.
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