Governments: Are potholes the gateway drug to civic engagement?

“Are potholes the gateway drug to civic engagement?’  That’s the question that Ben Berkowitz of SeeClickFix asked us at today’s BMW and Mashable Global Innovation Series in Berlin.

Ben is passionate about bicycles, public art and his (and other peoples) neighbourhood and that’s why he was part of founding SeeClickFix  The concept is simple: You report neighborhood issues and see them get fixed. The scheme has three basic principles:

  1. Empowerment. SeeClickFix allows anyone to report and track non-emergency issues anywhere in the world via the internet. This empowers citizens, community groups, media organizations and governments to take care of and improve their neighbourhoods.
  2. Efficiency. Two heads are better than one and 300 heads are better than two. In computer terminology, distributed sensing is particularly powerful at recognizing patterns, such as those that gradually take shape on a street. Besides, the government can’t be in all places at all times. SeeClickFix make it easy and fun for everyone to see, click and fix.
  3. Engagement. Citizens who take the time to report even minor issues and see them fixed are likely to get more engaged in their local communities. It’s called a self-reinforcing loop. This also makes people happy and everyone benefits from that.

So does this open up the ‘flood gates’ for people to whinge and complain about all the things they don’t like in their city?

According to Ben in the first couple of weeks there are lots of comments about ‘old issues’ but within a few weeks the comments are genuine and balanced. Ben told us that within a very short period of time citizens have become the ‘city planners’ suggesting creative solutions as well as being information distributors in their city.

Follow the conversation at #BMWiGIS