Delia Harrington used to complain to herself when she noticed an overflowing bin at the beach. Now, she reaches for her phone and opens an app.
“It’s an empowering idea – just snapping a photo, sending it through to Randwick Council, and getting a notification when it’s solved,” says the Coogee local.
Delia’s local council is becoming a part of ‘Gov 2.0’ – the unprecedented rise of technology giving citizens a say in how their tax money is spent.
It’s the most prominent app of its kind in Australia and New Zealand. His app has been used to file 1.8 million reports – from damaged footpaths, dumped rubbish, broken playground equipment, potholes, and graffiti.
“The growth has been pretty crazy. We had 14,000 reports in 2013, and then last year, we had about 440,000. This year, we are probably going to do around 650,000,” Gorog says.
Snap Send Solve describes itself as an easy and efficient way to notify local councils, utilities or other authorities of issues that need addressing in communities. Gorog created the concept in response to a Victorian government competition calling for innovative apps that used publicly available data.
It has since integrated 720 receiving authorities across Australia and New Zealand.
“We worked out that it would only be useful if you didn’t have to think about whether it would work or not. We wanted to make it work everywhere,” Gorog said.
This proliferation of Gov 2.0 aligns with OECD findings that citizens’ trust aligns with their governments’ responsiveness in delivering public services.
Councillor Lindsay Shurey, the Deputy Mayor of Randwick Council, says: “There is a great appetite in Randwick. Our residents are really engaged with Council. They feel they can contact them about anything, especially if something’s wrong.”
Randwick Council integrated Snap Send Solve into its customer service software in July this year. The take-up from residents has been impressive, with over 2,000 reports this year, revealing Randwick’s top issues to be dumped rubbish and pavement management.
“People put photos of graffiti and other stuff on social media, tagging the council,” said Gorog. “It’s not efficient. And it’s a bad look for them.”
The first question to ask Randwick Council about the Coogee beach rubbish problem – How many bins did you provide? #auspol— Michael Byrnes (@MichaelByrnes) December 28, 2016
“Technology does make it easier. It makes it more user friendly for the customer,” said Suzy Dalamagas, Coordinator of Customer Service at Randwick Council.
“We take about 35,000 requests every month. We can get anywhere between 500-800 calls a day.”
While many residents still use the council’s website and phone line, increased digitisation has helped Randwick Council handle the volume of service requests. Dalamagas also explains how Snap Send Solve is funnelling requests to the right governing bodies.
“Potholes on arterial roads like Anzac Parade are directed straight to RMS,” she adds. “If someone wants to report overhanging branches on the powerlines, Ausgrid does it. Centennial Park falls into our area; however, it’s looked after by the Centennial Park Trust Fund.”
The app has created some problems, with residents opting to use it in time-critical matters.
“If someone reports illegal parking on the weekend, we don’t review it until Monday morning. That vehicle is not there anymore,” Dalamagas says. “If you want to report an illegal park, it will direct you to the after-hours service provider number. The same as dangerous dogs. That’s urgent.”
Randwick Council is still a new part of Gov 2.0. It replaced its MyRandwick app with Snap Send Solve this year, but reported working through issues marrying the new program with its existing IT workflows.
Already … we’ve got people saying `I’m going to Snap Send Solve that’.
Randwick Council hopes to reinstate some elements of the previous app, including users’ ability to check property prices, proposed developments in their area, schedule clean-ups, and be notified of local events.
Gorog, is optimistic about improving digitisation in the government space.
“A lot of companies who have been successful in business – SaaS providers like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Zendesk – are now moving into the government space. They’re offering a very powerful solution,” he says.
The Snap Send Solve team are looking to keep innovating, experimenting with gamification.
“If you say ‘I want to Google something,’ that means searching,” he adds. “Already in Victoria, we’ve got people saying `I’m going to Snap Send Solve that.’” “At the moment, we’re in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve got much broader aspirations than that!”
Main image by Eve Cogan.