08 March 2007

Government, its (Cycling) Citizens, and the Internet

In my experience of our government's use of the internet to improve services, the scorecard is pretty low so far. Just yesterday I noticed that my favourite rail information site operated (strangely) by Wandsworth council could no longer be found. This site used to be incredibly fast, and give you information on any route in the UK including stops, and including all the stops the train took on each journey, the trains ultimate route etc. It was timetable nirvana. Only missing were prices. Why Network Rail could not take on this brilliant piece of work I don't know.

However, I have a good example finally of how a service can be delivered to everyone's benefit, and on my sample size = 1, appears to do the job.

A curse for cyclists is the state of some roads where subsidence, damage etc can result in a serious jolt and in fact be quite dangerous. We have been powerless to do much about this unless you have mountains of time and inclination to pursue through letters or waiting in phone queues.

Just recently, the CTC introduced FillThatHole.org which allows anyone to create a problem report for any road in the UK, including identifying it on a map and even including images. The report is then filed with the appropriate authority.

I thought I'd give it a try for one I noticed in Kensington and Chelsea, not expecting much. I got a confirmation back that it had been received, and another one that it had been forwarded on (yeh, so what!). But I was genuinely surprised that within 10 days or so, the repair had been made quite thoroughly. Even better, I got an email back within another day telling me that the hazard had been reported as fixed. Very cool.

Now, I have given credit to government for this, when in fact most of the credit goes to the CTC. And, I repeat, my sample size is 1. But, this is a great example of the sorts of things our governments (local and national) COULD be doing across their whole services portfolio to engage with its citizens. I'm sure it's not a huge system, but what I particularly liked was the way it kept you informed throughout the process, and closed it all off at the end.

Three cheers to the CTC, and one and a half cheers to the people in government somewhere who have at least allowed this to work!

UPDATE (9th March): The one thing missing from the system was the ability for the original reporter to re-open the case if the fix had not been made or not made satisfactorily. Within a day of me suggesting this feature, the CTC had added a button to do exactly this. So, that means four cheers for the CTC!

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