Jointly.app : civic problems solved co-operatively
Mobile app for citizens to report civic issues, damaged infrastructure, etc, and get them resolved.
1/9

Target groups

Change makers and Public sector officials

Observation

The voices of citizens often get lost in the halls of bureaucracy.
Many people and communities feel that their local governments are unresponsive, and that departmental accountability is non-existent. For example, if Fatima, a concerned citizen, is bothered by a pothole developing in a road and wants the public infrastructure department of the local government to do something about it, who can she talk to? Who can she hold accountable? And how do honest officials ensure that Fatima is heard?

Conclusion

For progress in any community, including the Arab nations highlighted in this contest, its important that the relationship between ordinary citizens and their local government officials be COOPERATIVE, and not adversarial. There ARE honest and dedicated officials who have the desire to solve problems that fall within their purview. There are citizens with civic sense who want their villages and towns to thrive and be managed well. How might we connect these two groups together??

Solution

Jointly is a mobile app + service that local governments subscribe to at a reasonable price. Any ordinary citizen can install the app on his/her phone/tablet/laptop, and use its camera to take pictures of issues that need to be remedied by the local authorities. GPS or wifi-geolocation pins the issue in a Google Map, and submits to the concerned officials automatically. The electronic trail contributes to timely remediation, metrics, transparency. Two-way notifications/alerts are supported.

Key Problem

When you see a nasty crack developing on a road, what can you do about it? In the past, people might write a letter to a local newspaper for publication, or phone in a complaint to the public works maintenance department. But there was no chain of accountability, to track if the issue was communicated to the right team, and what steps were taken to resolve it. What if, instead, issues were easily reported, geostamped, timestamped, and the steps to their resolution were transparent and trackable?

Which field and which area?

Applicable to all nations in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Better governance. Civic accountability. Citizen & community engagement. "Digital community building."

Improving infrastructure, and reducing the maintenance costs (because "a stitch in time saves nine"). What Smart cities should be.

Effects of the problem

Unless the communication gap between citizens and governments is bridged and citizens:government trust is improved, we will continue to see unrest, public demonstrations, etc. Both citizens and governments shall be stuck with poorly maintained public infrastructure, with gaps in essential services. Infrastructure problems, other developing problems, or even potentially-dangerous situations (e.g. cracks under a bridge, or outbreaks of infectious diseases) might not be noticed in time if citizens do not report them, or if the reports are not expedited to the concerned officials in time. Moreover, as of now, sometimes concerned citizens have to pay "tips" to government workers to fix issues/infrastructure (often the tip helps expedite the process, e.g. of a damaged electric transformer being repaired quickly, or a road repaired, etc). Jointly shall, instead, create transparency and even discourage bribery (when the app can be used to lodge a complaint anonymously!).

Solution

Instead of feeling helpless about civic issues, urban maintenance, citizens become part of the solution, jointly with authorities. Report & solve problems via a simple app. Blow that whistle, if needed!

Civic technology 4 citizens & governments: https://goo.gl/BovwZu

For our specific Arab nations in the post-Arab Spring era, this idea will be embraced by local authorities as one more way of reestablishing dialog and trust with citizens. See the "govt side": https://youtu.be/Ky1g8wGRXZU

Additional Slide - 1

Often authorities in these countries worry about citizen dissatisfaction, and fear that empowerment of citizens and "liberal democracy" might weaken the rule of the authorities. The Jointly app + service is not a threat to their power. Indeed it helps them establish an important line of communication, feedback with people. Moreover, two-way communication is supported, with potential use in disaster alert broadcasting. (Jointly is independent, so authorities cannot misuse it to track people)

Additional Slide - 2

Jointly is more than just a means for citizens to submit work/maintenance requests to local government and trace the status of their requests. It also gives people confidence in the power of their voices, fostering community spirit and democracy! For e.g., more people reporting a specific pothole location will improve its repair prioritization.

Planned app features: a points system to reward citizens for being the first to report a problem before it snowballs, leaderboard, anonymity choice etc

Additional Slide - 5

If you look at the green bridge in the 1st slide, you can see what Jointly does so well... it functions as a bridge between the general population and the local government. Empowering both sides to identify, prioritize and solve civic problems. In a cooperative manner, and not in an adversarial manner.

It might well be THE grassroots movement to lead cities and towns in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan towards the future "smart cities!"