Open311 was the primary inspiration for CitySDK team to develop its own API to help European cities communicate more efficiently with their citizens. Potholes, broken traffic signs, abandon vehicles are some of everyday requests’ types that are being submitted on Open311-compliant servers around the world. Citizens using their mobile device or a web page can submit a request to local authorities and get the status of the submitted requests. People that use this interactive system get the feeling of being more involved in everyday life of their cities.
Open311 implementation in CitySDK city-members has proved the need of people to communicate with community. As time goes more citizens prefer to report their issues using mobile apps and the municipal web site. Although senior citizens still prefer the old-way of reporting an issue, by phone, younger people who are more familiar with new technology, feel better to anonymously send a report using their mobile device.
One of the main advantages of Open311 is that all requests to local authorities become public so everyone can see how fast and how efficiently they react. Also useful statistics can be exported from Open311 data such as city places with more problems, municipal departments with late response etc.
So, is at all? Citizens need only to report about potholes and broken lights and this is where all ends? Let’s see why the answer is NO.
Future of Open311
One of the biggest problems in Europe the last years is unemployment. Lots of young people trying to find a job. Why not expand Open311 to include functions of submitting job claims and job offers? Furthermore if we want to expand the feedback to local authorities, surveys can be offered to be filled out by app or site users. Answers to frequent questions can be added e.g. about social services. Lots of other interactions can be implemented.
Another important issue that the expansion of Open311 could help is the need to publish decisions of city council meetings. A search form could be integrated with Open311 apps so that users can search for decisions that are interested in, such as municipal taxes, new technical projects and services, etc. In general the new Open311 would make easy to define custom forms for people to describe certain kind of issues.
Summarizing, the expanded Open311 should be an interface between municipalities and citizens. Citizens do not only need to report issues, they also need an easy way to get and send information about everything that happens in the wider area. This could be achieved if more functions can be integrated into Open311 API.
If someone thinks of it outside the location-based context of reporting things like potholes, it’s essentially a survey tool or a custom form generator. When thought of this way, there’s a much broader set of use cases where Open311 could help establish common standards for interacting with government and getting data out. Even within the traditional context of the today’s API, there’s still a lot of work to do, but more attention is needed to help coordinate and prioritize the standards process.
Of course all of the above actions require a standardization so that the final product can be spread among cities. It is important that a new API will be created that expands Open311 and not individual implementations. Is it easy? No. Will it be helpful? Yes.