Guest Post: My Society

Posted on 02/29/2012 by

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By Myfanwy Nixon

At mySociety, our goal is to build websites that improve access to civic and democratic rights. FixMyStreet.com is a typical example of that: it’s a simple site which encourages people to take action within their own communities.

Got a problem such as a pothole or broken streetlight? Nip onto FixMyStreet, input the postcode or street name, and off it goes to the local council. The whole process takes a couple of minutes, and – hopefully – encourages a sense of ownership within the community.

We launched back in February 2007. We wanted to make the site accessible to all, with a particular aim of reaching people who had never before reported problems to the council. The result was a pared-down site with a single function.

That’s not to say there isn’t complex data behind it. All a user need do is input the postcode of the problem they wish to report. Behind the scenes, complex databases route the report to the correct contact in the relevant local authority, using data such as postcodes, council boundaries, and contact email addresses for range of departments across hundred of councils.

In 2008, we produced FixMyStreet as an iPhone app; volunteers also developed Android and Nokia apps using our open-source code. But the digital world moves quickly, and an update is long overdue – which is where Kasabi come in.

Kasabi’s funding is allowing us to take down the existing apps and replace them with a responsive, mobile web version of FixMyStreet. With the advent of HTML5, we can re-architect the entire HTML front end of FixMyStreet.com: the same page will radically reformat depending on the device which is being used to view the site. The result will be a faster, clearer, more powerful way for everyone to report street problems on the fly.

Things are moving. We’ve collaborated with the design agency Supercool to create an updated look and feel for the new mobile version. Development is also well underway, with the first half of the work completed at the test stage.

FixMyStreet is based, like all mySociety sites, on transparency. Much of its success lies in the fact that reports are published online as well as being sent to the council. It relies on open data, for its maps and for its postcode database.

Thanks to this collaboration, we see an opportunity to open up our own report data more fully, living up to our own standards of transparency and accessibility. We’ll be pushing our reports data live to Kasabi. The goal is that individuals looking to process or analyse the state of fault reports in the UK will have access to a regular repository.

We are very excited – both in anticipation of launching a more responsive app, and at being able to make our report data available via another platform. By doing so, we feel that we’re serving two core mySociety communities: FixMyStreet’s users, and the open data movement.

Posted in: Funding, Ideas