DEVELOPMENT

Solving service delivery issues

Intervate Managing Director Lionel Moyal
lionel-moyal-www.techsmart.co_.za_.jpg

The JRA’s newly-introduced Find&Fix mobile app fundamentally improves the way road faults are reported and fixed. Intervate was approached by the JRA to develop an app that would help improve service delivery on issues related to Johannesburg’s roads.

Functioning as a state owned entity, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) is responsible for the construction, operation, control, rehabilitation and maintenance of the roads and storm water infrastructure in the City of Johannesburg. This mandate includes the erection and maintenance of bridges, traffic signal systems, footways, and road signage and markings.

The Agency is also accountable for identifying, documenting and repairing road faults throughout the city. In a region that is well known for torrential thunderstorms in the summer months, the JRA is often inundated with citizen requests for prompt response to new issues found on the city’s highways and urban transit routes.

The challenge

Although responding to pothole problems, non-functioning traffic lights, missing manhole covers, and other road issues, is a function that falls on the shoulders of the JRA, it actively invites citizens to log issues. Until now, people have been required to log issues via a centralised City of Johannesburg call centre. The JRA’s strategy to become more accessible and more accountable meant it needed to provide more avenues for people to report problems. Public feedback has also indicated that, at times of high call volumes, motorists tend to regard the call centre as a sub-optimal way of processing requests.

As part of this ‘turnaround strategy’, the JRA recently took the decision to build a framework that would allow the public to submit complaints directly to the agency, eliminating its reliance on an overstretched City complaints network.

The solution

After considerable investigation the JRA opted to create a mobile application that would allow motorists to instantly and conveniently submit road issues to the agency – from their phones, from wherever they may be. It was critical that this framework could tightly integrate with the JRA’s core operations – issuing tasks to repair teams and monitoring their progress in real time. In this way, the JRA benefits by increased efficiencies and more automated workflows.

The JRA selected Intervate, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and winner of numerous Microsoft Partner Awards, to assist them on this journey. Intervate’s selection was based on its experience in developing business and community mobile apps. Its strong pedigree of innovation, and a passion to create impactful solutions meant that this was an ideal partnership to help enhance the JRA’s service delivery.

The result was the “Find&Fix” mobile app that is available for Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android smart devices. These being the three major mobile operating systems, almost every smartphone-owning road user is empowered with a simple and effective way of logging road issues. Find & Fix automatically detects from where the user is sending the information via the device’s GPS, which allows the JRA to dynamically plot road faults against geographic locations. The ability for users to add photos helps in the JRA in identifying the issue onsite. The magic of the app (which utilises Intervate’s groundbreaking “Citizen Reporting 2015 Platform” framework) is that it geo-fences the regions where incidents are reported. This means that service requests are easily grouped and work teams are dispatched efficiently. It also ensures that duplicate entries are handled accordingly.

Says Lionel Moyal, Managing Director at Intervate, a T-Systems company, “The most fulfilling aspect of this partnership is to see the promise of eGovernment making a tangible impact on the lives of everyday citizens. This is a real-world example of how our families and our communities are benefiting from technology. Hopefully this will spark other innovations that improve service delivery by local and national administrations.”

The results

Citizens have shown overwhelming support for the app – with over 12 000 users downloading the app to date, and very high levels of engagement. Positive sentiment is flowing across various feedback channels, particularly on social media (the agency is available on Twitter via @MyJRA).

Most importantly, service incidents are being addressed far quicker than before. This is the ultimate recognition that e-government and m-government initiatives like this can have a sustainable, real-world impact on our communities and local economies. The JRA is able to stay on top of issues with a visual dashboard that shows a summary of outstanding and closed issues.

The JRA has seen the benefits of the integration between the GPS and photographic element of Find & Fix including reduced minimal human intervention, improved visibility by being able to view the issue. Furthermore, traditional internal workflow process has made it far easier for them to ensure that issues are being resolved far more quickly. They are also able to more accurately monitor contractor teams and to hold them responsible in the event of a failure to act.

Geo-fencing has also enabled the JRA to automatically assign jobs to particular teams, leading to greater efficiencies. In fact, the app has changed the way the JRA responds to complaints at a fundamental level and has established a foundation for them to innovate further. Now that the JRA are demonstrating results and value, other agencies are looking to them for advice on how to improve service delivery, making it an incredibly successful project.

Recent and forthcoming enhancements

Using an Agile development mindset, the Find&Fix app is constantly being updated with useful new features. Recent additions to the app include allowing users to login with their Google, Facebook, or Twitter accounts, as well as viewing incident resolution images, the ability to rate and comment on the JRA’s resolution of issues, and the addition of new categories like pavements and guard rails. Leveraging the native accelerometer capabilities on certain smartphones, road quality issues, such as speed bumps, can also be recorded.

“We’re really maximising the capabilities of the smart device,” explains Moyal, “using the accelerometer, the camera, the GPS, and the Internet connectivity”.

A new version of the app will soon be released to field agents and contractors tasked with attending to issues – helping them navigate to issues, capture resolution details on-site, track team performances, and demonstrate closed issues with photo confirmation.

 

 

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