Social media, twitter and local government Comments Off
Social media is allowing local government to respond to citizens in a more responsive and accurate manner.
It’s hard to underestimate how much technology can revolutionise the way that public services can be delivered.
One local resident in Lewisham spotted a zebra crossing on Hither Green Lane had one of its light’s covered. Instead of calling me, or writing to me, they tweeted a photo from their mobile of the covered light and asked me to investigate.
Because I had a photo, Council Officers could show this evidence to our highways contractor, Conway. Who in turn, with the address, knew exactly what they needed to fix the problem. Within 3 days the light was fixed.
We can respond even quicker to litter and graffiti thanks to the Love Lewisham application. In 2002, it took two and a half days to clean up reported graffiti, now it takes on average half a day. And graffiti is down by 73 per cent. How? By trusting the public. People don’t want to live in an area blighted by litter, and they’re prepared to tell us when we’re not doing enough. So by giving every citizen with a smartphone the ability to report litter or graffiti to us, we’re able to plot where our teams need to go in a more joined-up way – saving time and energy. And as the smartphone app can also upload a photo of the offending detritus we can deal with the worst stuff first. And people really do seem to like taking responsibility for their home.
But we can also deliver services differently.
Hilary Renwick, our Head of Cultural Services, has told me:
We are acquiring two ‘digital shelves’ from Bloomsbury’s e books collection which include the Arden Shakespeare, specifically the ten plays that are on the GCSE National Curriculum and a collection entitled ‘Our Environment’ comprising ten books including The Hot Topic by Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King. The project is sponsored by Google and run by Public Library Online.
The Service will be launching a new App for I Phone and Android phones that will enable library card holders to search the library catalogue, reserve a book and interact with their borrower record.
Soon, we will be able to offer more and more of our collection on portable devices. We know that 60% of the workforce of Lewisham has to commute to work in the morning. If we can offer our library services on Kindles, or iPhones, we can ensure our libraries service is more used by more people.
Finally, we need to break open our datasets. We hoard too much information – data that could be used by local residents to challenge the way we run public services. By opening up data we will find ourselves open to serious scrutiny by voters. But – people want to help – and there’s huge added value in getting people to challenge our assertions. We used to spend a significant amount of money on consultants to guide our policy process. We’ve halved this in a year, and we’re going further (as I’ve been pushing in my role as Chair of the Audit Panel). Now, we need to embolden the ‘citizen consultant’ using our data to aid their analysis. In the same way the Freedom of Information Act has opened up local government in a spectacular way – access to data can be challenge us in a far more productive way.
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