There are now plenty of excellent Enviro-Reporting apps to choose from. The best and most popular, of course is FixMyStreet, launched back in 2007 as ‘Neighbourhood FixIt’. Others include the excellent LitterGram and LoveCleanStreets, commissioned with funding from London Councils ‘Capital Ambition’ programme in 2010.
Love Lewisham was the first public app for reporting environmental problems, launched in February 2005. The origins of this idea go back to 1998/99 with the ‘Lewisham-VisibleDifference’ initiative. This was a web application I built to allow residents to post photos of problems that could then be resolved by the Council’s frontline workers (graffiti removal operatives, cleansing staff etc).
As you can see from this screenshot, the public ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photo was a key element of this early project;
With the rapid development of mobile technology and the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Operating system in 2003, I was able to create a mobile front-end application for the new Compaq Ipaq PocketPc This app, known as Cam2Web became the beta version of LoveLewisham while we tested a public version of the mobile app during 2004, with Lewisham Cabinet Member for Environment, Andrew Brown and local resident and journalist Adam Tinsworth.
We launched LoveLewisham to the public in 2005 after commissioning a ‘professional’ version of the app from a local IT Trainer (the local IT Trainer I shared the idea with when we commissioned training from them in 2004). You’ll see from this clip (at around 1:17) that we were still using Cam2Web as the admin back-end after the launch!
Reports have started coming into our LoveLewisham app from FixMyStreet, via our new Open311 api. Open311 is an interface that allows 3rd party apps to share data with government services. The launch of our LoveLewisham app back in 2005 spawned a multitude of ‘Environmental Reporting Apps’. These apps aim to provide an easy way for residents to report things to their council, in the hope that the council will pay for an enhanced integrated version. This creates a problem for local authorities who have to deal with a variety of different systems. Open311 will help us deal with that problem. Any of these apps can now use our Open311 interface to send us their reports and receive updates from our workforce. That means we can reduce the time we spend dealing with formatted e-mails or 3rd party ‘administrative backends’.
From April this year we will only respond to reports that come to us via Open311. We really hope that others follow FixMyStreet and demonstrate a real commitment to helping maintain our environment and reduce costs.
LoveLewisham has embraced the Open311 specification. This means that jobs from any public reporting system can now be pushed straight to our workers who can respond with their LoveLewisham Peer2Peer mobile app.
We launched LoveLewisham as a public app back in 2005. MySociety were the first to launch a national version of this approach in 2007.
A lot has changed since then. Having your own ‘branded app‘ is seen as a bit of a vanity project in an age of austerity. The strength of LoveLewisham has always been the implementation of mobile technology by our front-line workers. By adopting Open311 we can hook-into the fantastic FixMyStreet public site and apps while developing our in-house LoveLewisham Peer2Peer app to provide a much more effective response.
From April this year, we will only accept reports from external apps and systems that use our Open 311 interface. This will free-up staff time and reduce costs.
Former Director of MySociety, Tom Steinberg summed up the benefits of Open311 very nicely:
Unscrupulous suppliers will sometimes intentionally set up systems so that the government has to pay extra money if they want any new channels to be added. Using Open311 is both a way to lower your future costs, and a way to make sure your current supplier can’t lock you into expensive upgrades.