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Tuesday 17 October 2017

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An application to inform cities of public space damaging

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par Elsa Sidawy | 05.29.10


A passer-by taking a photo of a graffiti or a bin lying on the sidewalk with his/her Smartphone: in any country in the world such a scene might seem peculiar. Not in Holland where citizens from now on act civically when taking such pictures. BuitenBeter is a new application available since April 26th in the town of Eindhoven, and now in the whole country. Users take a photo to show the problem they would like to report, choose the category matching the problem and geo-localize very precisely the location of the issue they would like to report thanks to the GPS included in the iPhone. Then they only have to send their complaint as such and it will be directly sent to the town council that can forward it to the dedicated services or companies needed to solve the problem. And with success: “within two weeks, the application has been downloaded 15,000 times from the Apple Store, more than 1,500 notifications have been made and more than 5,000 tests have been made by iPhone users,” states Jens Steensma, CEO of Yucat Mobile Business Solutions, the company that has developed BuitenBeter, states. In order to encourage participation trial notifications can be made with the prospect of winning an iPad to users.

corps_buitenbeter_100627 Improving communication between the town and its inhabitants

The application covers a great deal of everyday nuisances: damaged sidewalks, bins lying on the sidewalk, dog excrements, broken lampposts, weeds, graffitis… Almost nothing is left out. In addition to its practical aspect, this new tool is a true participatory democracy instrument. “BuitenBeter is an easy tool that  encourages citizens to report problems that need the attention of the city council,” Jens Steensma adds. Most citizens have little information about the possibility  in place for lodging complaints to their city council about the nuisances affecting public spaces and “those who know about it often perceive the process as timely and complicated,” the Yucat specialist explains. BBuitenBeter will thus enable to reduce the length of time needed to lodge a complaint for the civilian and make local authorities’ feedbacks to citizens easier. “Furthermore, this tool will improve the city council’s image in people’s eyes and show how much effort they are making to enhance the quality of life in the public space,” Jens Steensma observes.

So what are we waiting for, outside the Netherlands, to adopt this mediating tool that could reconcile local authorities with the most demanding taxpayers? “We have received encouraging responses from city councils in countries such as Australia, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, United States, England and France,” Jens Steensma states. There is therefore a lucrative market for Yucat, which has over 10 years of experience developing mobile business solutions, particularly those that are field-service related regarding to governmental processes. The application will soon be available on Android and Windows Mobile. But there also may be a price to pay for excessive transparency as in certain cities the application may entertain some evil-minded citizens. So use with caution.

Update 10 27 06 : BuitenBeter is now also available for the mobile users of Android.

Elsewhere in the world

In San Francisco, in 2009, the Mayor had encouraged his fellow citizens to use the microblogging Twitter to make their complaints. In England, the FixMyStreet website allows all British citizens to do so by locating the problems on an online map. Southern countries are not outdone since Madrid offers the opportunity to point out these nuisances through the Na Minha Rua page of the city’s official website.

Translated by Oona Bijasson

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