For the uninitiated, SeeClickFix is a location-based tool that allows citizens to report issues (think potholes, graffiti, broken traffic signals) to their city government simply and easily through the web or their mobile phone. In some cities, like Washington, DC and San Francisco, SeeClickFix is directly integrated with the city’s 311 issue management database, so when a citizen reports an issue it gets prioritized within the established queue of problems. When performing a survey of web and mobile apps that could be useful for bicycle and pedestrian planning, I identified SeeClickFix as a promising tool. Not only did it encourage citizen participation but it made available to the public the resulting data. This could be valuable information to the planner trying to identify hotspots for capital improvements. However, one shortcoming I found was that no one was being held accountable for following up on all the issues.
Based on a very cursory look at the data, it appears that cities who have integrated SeeClickFix with 311 do a better job at actually addressing the problems raised. So, what can be done about accountability? I was encouraged when I read GOOD Magazine’s recent story on SeeClickFix’s new Facebook App. While not a comprehensive solution to the problem, I think “socializing” the issues will help create a community among neighbors who may start to organize small but politically powerful groups who themselves hold the city accountable. Additionally, simply knowing that this data is in the public may encourage cities to take quick action to fix issues. It wouldn’t reflect very nicely on the city to have 1,000 outstanding issues and none of them actually addressed (in SeeClickFix terminology, these would be marked “Closed” whereas outstanding issues are “Open” or “Acknowledged.”)
What else could provide the needed accountability? What is SeeClickFix published response rates for all cities, providing a letter grade of A for the most tech-savvy, responsive cities (the carrot) and a letter grade F for unresponsive cities (the stick)? What if the citizen who creates (or follows) an issue gets pinged when the issue has gone unsolved for a designated amount of time? What if SeeClickFixers get extra "Civic Points" for getting several users to sign on to a campaign to solve a particularly stale issue? These are some ideas. I don’t think there’s a comprehensive solution to accountability, but I think SeeClickFix is well-positioned to be part of a solution.
- Terra Curtis