What does it take to get FixMyStreet to post reports directly into a council CRM? One good public servant.

Recently I gave a talk at a conference where I told a group of local government officials that FixMyStreet was built not just to provide cleaner streets for their citizens, but also to force the hands of councils to procure and contract internal IT systems fit for the 21st century. In particular I pointed out that companies like Google seek to have people use their service from any site, any browser and device – they don’t just demand that everyone goes to www.google.com. And, I said, it’s only through building nice interfaces (APIs) that you can become an organisation that realises the benefits for yourself and other organisations from taking this ‘we’re happy to interoperate with anyone’ approach.

Less than three weeks later Michael Houlsby from East Hants council has single-handedly built an external facing API for their faults and problems database. So now FixMyStreet posts problems in that council direct into their database, without them first being translated into emails.

This is fantastic, especially as Michael clearly knocked it together in his spare time, and helps confirm what we’ve said before – if government builds nice interoperable APIs people like mySociety will use them to improve citizens’ experiences, whist simultaniously keeping everyone’s unnecessary workloads and expenses to a minimum. Plus it shows that if your IT supplier tells you you need to sign a new five or six figure contract to add an API to a CRM system you’ve already bought – you’re being jerked around.

Hats off to Michael – you’re a great example of a pro-active public servant using your skills to make government both better and more efficient.

5 Comments

  1. Great news! Two questions – For which backend application? Will it be open-source? I hope so… then other councils will not have the ‘cost to develop’ reason not to adopt such open interfaces.

    Brent Council use Casework for their streetcare and other facilities management. Now Brent put planning notices on googlemaps, perhaps an API to the councils planning system is not too far away.

  2. It was when I last used FixMyStreet to report some dumped beer barrels that prompted me to write this entry on my blog:

    http://stubblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/councils-should-concentrate-on-providing-data-not-services-on-their-websites/

    The council used the fact that FixMyStreet had experienced some difficulties to try and justify why I should have reported the problem through their website.

    What they failed to realise was that the problem DID get fixed vix FixMyStreet and the reason I used it was because their own behemoth of a website was too complicated and I didn’t know which department I had to report it to. FixMyStreet removed that problem.

  3. Thsi is very encouraging and shows what can be done to makes things really easy for the citizen. This might find its way into the BC2009 report!

    Martin Greenwood
    Editor of Better connected