The project “Regional model for smart reporting system in municipal services for citizens”, that we implemented in cooperation with partner organizations from the region: National Consumer Organization of Serbia (NOPS), the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South East Europe (SEE), the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), Consumer Organization of Macedonia (OPM), the Community associations of local government in the Republic of Macedonia (ZELS), association of municipalities of Montenegro (UoM). It is financed by GIZ ORF MMS, and as a leader of the project, the NGO Milieukontakt Macedonia. This project aims to identify the conditions for the development and implementation of such a reporting system in the municipalities in Southeast Europe, by ensuring a dialogue between associations of local governments and consumer organizations, to assess the sustainability of the system and agree on its management structure. The reporting system will rely on the smartphone and web platforms. The idea is that people use their mobile phones as a tool that allows you to communicate with each other. Take a picture of the problem directly through the application notify the municipality, but also can monitor what the authorities did to fix the problem. After you download the app, citizens have an overview of reported problems in the municipality in the areas that interest them, but also the reaction of the institutions. The system should not be seen only as a system of complaints and monitor whether they are resolved or not, but citizens need to become active participants in their respective fields. As one of the activities is to develop a questionnaire with representatives of municipalities and public utilities, which are related to research on existing and sustainable solutions for communication between citizens and the authority of local government / public utilities, in respect of reporting and solving municipal problems, especially via mobile phone (including a smart phone app).
The project envisages several meetings, including one study visit.
First meeting of the Steering Committee of the project (kick-off event) was held at the Hotel Romance in Veles (Macedonia) from 21 to 22 January 2015. The aim of this meeting was to bring together all partner organizations, in order to join in the coordination of project activities, as well as to formally appoint the members of the Project Steering Committee.
Study Visit (Germany and the Netherlands 22-27 March 2015)
In the period from 22-27 March 2015, we were in a study visit to Germany and the Netherlands, which was organized and financially supported by the Open Regional Fund for modernization of municipal services.
Through this study visit, we had the opportunity to see real examples of functioning of the municipalities in the Netherlands and Germany, we get acquainted with the functioning of this system and thus gained considerably more practical experience when it comes to this area. In Eindhoven, we met with Mr. Paul Smeets, chief manager for the city of Eindhoven, and certain areas of the city, which manages the system of smart reporting. The system in Eindhoven, is functioning for five years, and its overall implementation required the investment of 600,000 euros.
– The biggest advantage of smart reporting system is to reduce the cost of the municipality, as well as the speed of solving problems, says Paul Smeets.
One of the main priorities of the public administration of the city of Utrecht, in terms of decision-making process on public interests are citizens’ initiatives. Communication between the institution involved in the one hand and citizens on the other hand is very important and primarily takes place electronically. Citizens are thus able to report certain problems, but even more important is the fact that they have the ability to competent institutions to submit their initiatives to improve the environment in which they live.
– What is really important is that we want to build Utrecht together, which means that we as a municipality will not build anything separately, but together and in consultation with citizens. The sense of ownership is very important, because on the one hand the city belongs to everyone, but on the other hand, all have a responsibility in this regard. This is what we all strive to achieve common in Utrecht, told us Mrs. Marieke Hellevoort, project manager for e-participation of citizens in this city.
In the opinion of civil servants in the municipality of Utrecht, it’s not just about the system that is being implemented, but a way of life and thinking. Representatives of municipalities and citizens meet and openly discuss issues in order to achieve common interests. Therefore, it is necessary primarily to raise awareness of citizens and their representatives in local government.
Very inspiring example of self-initiative is a project of revitalization of old production facilities in the industrial zone of the city. This area was the center of the metal industry only 20 years ago. Today’s economic capacities are based on sophisticated technologies and creative industries and abandoned warehouses and workshops, are a place where local artists and architects can express their creativity for economic development purposes.
– This has been forgotten and abandoned locations in Utrecht, but now more people are interested in the history of this place, a number of companies that are willing to invest here increases, so it is an often-visited and economically viable location, says Mrs. Marleen Laverman from the Association of friends of Cartesio of Utrecht.
The whole activity is also financially supported by the municipal budget and from companies in neighboring countries, and additional revenues generated by creating various items for numerous festivals held in Utrecht during the summer months, for which the city is also known.
Darmstadt and Frankfurt
During the visit in Darmstadt and Frankfurt, hosts of these cities pointed out that the first step in the implementation is providing information to citizens about upcoming activities, consultations and discussion forums. It was also noted that a certain mechanism, no matter how technologically advanced, can not successfully function without the active participation of citizens. Besides the fact that citizens can report infrastructure problems, also have the option to vote electronically in relation to issues that have priority in solving for the municipality.
Before the system is established, people have seen problems, for example. during a relaxing walk around the city on weekends, but simply they did not have the motivation to report them to the city administration, because they had to remember what exactly was the problem, to come home and write e-mail or phone them. Now you can report problems as soon as you notice. They have the ability to simultaneously requests a few problems, as is often the case, because they realize that the problems can be resolved quickly, says dr. Tobias Klug from the company “Wer Denkt Was”, which has developed an application for smartphones Mängelmelder for reporting deficiencies.
As municipal representatives during a meeting in the City Administration in Frankfurt explained, regardless of whether a person wants to report a problem or to vote on certain priority projects, only ones can be registered in the system. The essence of this operation is the transparency of the relevant institutions, to give immediate and clear insight into what they do or not to interested citizens. On the other hand, the problem of categorization clearly define responsibilities for addressing a particular issue, which saves both, time and money.
In the period from 24-26 June 2015 in Palić (Serbia) was held the second meeting of the Steering Committee, which brought together all the partners organizations – participating in the project. The meeting also presented the final reports of each of the organizations, which were then adopted by all members of the board. Participants discussed the next steps in the project and gave their suggestions when it comes to the technical part of this application.
The attendees at the meeting, set the date for the next, and also the last meeting of the board at this stage of the project, which will be held in Montenegro.
The project is supported by: