Last year Internews in Armenia supported an independent group of young people in organizing an Innovation Lab. Out of that Lab one very interesting project, called City Bugs was created. The website was developed within the framework of Alternative Resources in Media (ARM) Program, a program made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
CityBugs.am is a platform where anyone can talk about communal and related unsolved problems in the city or Yerevan, and make suggestions or propose innovative ideas to improve their communities. The platform was created with the idea to allow people to improve their community by actively suggesting and see how issues get solved.
Today Citybugs.am is a social platform providing the possibility to talk about communal issues of different cities. The users of the platform simply report about daily unsolved issues or bugs in their communities. Citybugs.am is synchronized with the Google dynamic map which ensures the interactivity of the website. The tool presents visually the exact location of the report, as well as collect and stick all existing issues and challenges in a unified place.
The target of the group behind the platform is not simply to report issues, but also to connect with the municipality in solving them. Due to the Citybugs.am ordinary citizens have the opportunity to discuss specific problems with like-minded people or group over an unresolved issue trying to find ways for its solution, but also to track the response by the municipality and document it.
Among major aims of this platform is also to raise and make evident positive changes occurring in various districts of Yerevan like constructions and renovation, condominiums and local governmental agencies etc. The idea is to improve the communication between governmental organizations and society, ensure transparency of the municipality activities, and raise awareness about existing communal and social issues in different cities.
CityBugs.am is basically designed to streamline complaints by distributing concerns to different subdivisions of the municipality. Visitors to the site can also follow the status of how their issues are being resolved. Guests to the site can “report a bug” or “make a suggestion” and follow “latest bugs” and “latest suggestions”. On “latest bugs”, a visitor has, for example, said there needs to be more litterbins on Moscovyan Street.
Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan has already made a number of recommendations based on problems reported in CityBugs.am. (source)
The reason why I really like this project are several:
- The platform has been entirely build and customized in Armenia by Armenian developers. They tried to use already existing platforms, but then they realized that they wanted something specifically designed for themselves, so they created the platform from scratch.
- The platform is not just a “collect reports and put them on a map” but it is directly connected to the municipality, that has its own access to the platform and can see the reports, verify them, and solve problems reported.
- The platform is clean, neat and just simple to use
- The users of the platforms need to register. The focus is not on collecting more reports, but in engaging people in making a positive action towards the improvement of their communities. Anonymous reports are not accepted and there is a very strong emphasis put on the responsibility of people in being active and known citizens.
- CityBugs is currently expanding to other municipalities, that heard from it from the municipality of Yerevan.
CityBugs.am is a very local citizens feedback mechanism, that may not be innovative in the idea, but it is definitely innovative in the approach: local platform, locally created and managed, connected to the authorities that respond to issues, and based on quality of information more than on numbers of reports. Kudos to the CityBugs team!