How European city governments are using technology to collaborate with and better serve their citizens
Technology has truly flattened the world, enabling people to raise their voices and be heard like never before. One place this is becoming increasingly important – and demanded – is in cities. Regular citizens are increasingly expecting to have greater influence over the public services they receive and how those translate to improved quality of life.
The Cloud and big data are enabling city governments across Europe to make public services more inclusive and participative, especially with smarter and more open information flows. A report from the Warsaw Institute for Economic Studies suggests that solutions allowing easy access to data for the public ensures increased transparency, quality and use of public services as well as increased private sector innovation. Several European cities are leading the way by implementing such solutions in public service, including Zagreb, Barcelona, Vinnytsia and London, which have found innovative ways to empower their citizens with the help of the Microsoft CityNext initiative.
The City of Zagreb has implemented an open data solution based on Microsoft Azure that enables city workers and citizens to contribute to the improvement of the city. In the eRadar project, information about work being carried out in the city is made available to different stakeholders. A municipal officer in the field reports on irregularities and uploads photographs of the problem on a mobile phone, sharing the information through the application with the relevant city office or company which can solve the irregularity. And on the flip side, with the MyZagreb app, citizens can report irregularities themselves, as well as monitor progress and see photos of completed repairs. What’s more is that the data is also available in an open format, allowing entrepreneurs to develop relevant applications, services and businesses.
For more on how Zagreb is using technology to become a leading European capital, watch the video below.
The City of Barcelona uses a big data solution to better understand and deliver on its citizens’ needs. Using Microsoft Azure HDInsight Service, the city is able to gain critical insights from a range of data sources, such as credit card transactions, website visits, GPS data and even social media feeds. For example, during La Mercè, Spain’s largest annual festival, social media data was used to understand what people thought about sanitation, transportation, restaurants and even the choice of musicians during concerts, so that improvements could be made in future years.
Moreover, the city publicly shares data to promote open and transparent government. For example, public data from Barcelona’s City Hall systems including street maps, contractor profiles, city calendars, election results and more is collected using Microsoft Azure SQL Database and shared openly to enable people to create mobile apps and other useful services. Also, both citizens and government staff have access to the bigov Better City Indicators dashboard, which shows a range of the city’s key performance indicators related to topics like the economy, population demographics and transportation.
For more on Barcelona’s solution, watch the video below or check out the full case study.
The Vinnytsia City Council is committed to openness and has made it simpler and easier for its citizens to access administrative services online. Using Microsoft Office tools such as Sharepoint, Exchange and Lync, disparate municipal services have been integrated into one institution called Transparent Office. Citizens now have one place to go to access a range of different e-services, such as registrations for kindergarten, online payment of utilities, search for public transportation routes and information about sports, arts and other clubs in the city. This integration has brought a lot more automation to government administration. For example, the city is now able to provide an automated system of housing and communal services based on Microsoft Dynamics, as information about technical specifications of buildings, received payments for utilities, and repair plans are now combined, enabling a new level of customer service from the city to its citizens.
For more on Vinnytia’s innovative solution, watch the video below.
When faced with reduced funding, 3 boroughs in London collaborated in developing a shared solution to cut costs without compromising on citizen services. Using the Microsoft Connected Government Framework as the development platform, the Havering, Newham and Waltham Forest authorities connected their different applications and processes and used Microsoft Sharepoint Server to create a user-friendly website that gives all of their citizens access to hundreds of transactional services, such as council tax payments, housing benefit applications and highway and public realm complaints. This solution shares overhead costs between the councils, while making it simpler and more efficient for citizens to access services. The improved websites are encouraging more people to handle routine transactions via the web instead of by telephone or in person, and the reduction in cost to the councils for getting someone to use the website rather than phoning is around 7 pence as opposed to £7 for a telephone caller. Havering alone has already achieved £1.6 million (€2.2 million) in cost savings in the first phase.
For more on this collaboration, check out the full case study.