mySociety - e-poacher turns gamekeeper?
For some it's like seeing Johnny Rotten in that butter advert: mySociety, the innovative group of hacktivists that spearheaded online citizen access to politics and public information has launched a product for the other side - local councils.
FixMyStreet for Councils is a customised version of the charity's national FixMyStreet.com service by which anyone can report street problems from potholes to graffiti without knowing what council area they are in, or having to resort to anything as bureaucratic and unusable as a council website. It also builds an open national map so anyone can view reported problems near where they are.
The new cloud software service - as pioneered by first customers the London boroughs of Bromley and Barnet - allows any council to embed the same FixMyStreet issue reporting and mapping functionality on their website. Managers can access an internal reports and statistics dashboard and the service can be integrated with council's back-office systems. It is also mobile-friendly, for easier reporting.
The move is not so illogical - the customised service does not replace the national FixMyStreet but complements it, and might end up providing vital funding for the charity's many free citizen services. In fact, the product has been developed in close collaboration with councils in recent months and years, alongside mySociety's national work.
"We are not changing what we are doing with the main website, which is still there, for people who can't go to a council website or may not even know who their council is", mySociety business development director Kristina Glushkova told UKAuthority.com.
"FixMyStreet for councils came out of interest among councils who have approached us over the years wanting a similar system on their websites. They had reporting forms, and many people did already report through council sites though there has been quite a high failure rate on forms, as Socitm's recent report shows. So they wanted to replace them with something really usable and easy."
FixMyStreet for Councils has the same back end as the main FixMyStreet.com website, Glushkova said, using the same shared infrastructure run from the cloud, with a front end customised for each council. Users access a short form where they can choose a problem category, describe the problem and add a picture if desired. They also have the option (not compsulsory) to create a user ID which can then be used to access the national service. FixMyStreet for Councils reports will also show up on the main national FixMyStreet website, discouraging duplicate reports.
Alongside Barnet and Bromley a third council, Lichfield District Council - known for e-government innovation, as the former host for the International Centre of Excellence in Local E-democracy (ICELE) - is due to go live with FixMyStreet for Councils in the next few weeks. MySociety has also created custom FixMyStreet installations and integrations for several councils, including Southampton and Berkshire, as part of its product development process.
Sales of FixMyStreet for Councils are carried out through a limited company fully owned by the charitable part of mySociety, so any profits return to the charity. Other charitable projects run by mySociety include WhatDoTheyKnow.com, for easy online freedom of information requests; WriteToThem.com, to help people contact politicians; and FixMyTransport.com, a similar service to FixMyStreet for reporting transport problems.
FixMYStreet for Councils: www.mysociety.org/for-councils/fixmystreet