Making New York city council openly available to citizens.By The City of New York
A review of public services in the UK conducted by the last Labour government found that half of all phone calls made to public sector agencies were either following up a previous inquiry (about which nothing had been heard) or simply went unanswered. Many of the calls that were answered were simply the start of a merry-go-round of transfers trying to find the right person, in the right department, who knew the answer. In one extreme case a woman trying to register the death of her husband had to make calls to 11 separate agencies.
New York’s 311 service was inspired as a response to nightmares such as these. 311 has set a new gold standard for how city councils can make themselves available to citizens. Someone can visit the 311 website, text 311-692, call 311 when in New York, Skype NYC311, interact with the service over Twitter or download its iPhone and Android apps. New York City services are the most digitally available of any city in the world. The 311 website is available in 50 languages and the telephone service is set up to deal with 170.
The questions that people ask are themselves revealing. One of the most popular was how to become a guard on a school crossing. The answer: go to your precinct police station and get the form. Another simply asks whether New York has any special rules governing noise. The answer: rather a lot, depending on whether you live in a house or an apartment, run a business or own a dog, provide entertainment or run a construction site.
Those calls and questions then provide the city council with a detailed, daily picture of what most concerns people. All the data from 311 is released in a monthly report to the public.
Image 'First shots with Sony A7, in Midtown Manhattan' courtesy of Dan Nguyen
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014