Birmingham Civic Dashboard

Car dashboard lit up at nightThe last of three presentations at #Brewcamp on 6 October was about the just-launched Birmingham City Council Civic Dashboard by @siwhitehouse also blogging here

Here’s what the council’s news release says:

Birmingham City Council and local residents can now work more closely together to discuss issues and identify trends in the community through a brand new web tool.

The ‘Birmingham Civic Dashboard’ allows residents to see local issues reported to the council –  such as housing repairs and anti-social behaviour – on an online interactive map.

Every day, the application takes live data from the city’s Customer First contact database and shows trends on the map, allowing both the council and residents to identify ‘hotspot’ areas where issues are common or recurring.

In turn residents can comment on the trends that emerge over time, giving an on-the-ground perspective on particular issues.  This is the first time that a UK council has put its service request data online in this way.

The pilot website is part of ‘Make it Local’, a pioneering project run by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).  The Birmingham Civic Dashboard was developed on behalf of the council by Digital Birmingham and digital production company Mudlark, who together make up one of four teams across the country taking part in the programme.

You can read the rest of the release here

Just from my initial pokings around the site, it’s great to see so much data presented in an easy to use way. There’s no doubt that it will be useful for communities, councillors and officers alike. From a council-nerd point of view, I found it really interesting to see the breakdown of just how residents are contacting the council, with phone still the most popular way for people get in touch.

The project had a relatively small budget and was a public sector/private developer collaboration. Lessons have already been learned for application to later stages of the project.

Next steps are to see how the data is used, how people come back and the questions they ask. Plans are afoot to get people together who are already interested in their area and talk with them about it.

And the Dashboard doesn’t even show the entire level of contact to Birmingham City Council – only those logged on the Contact Centre content management system. People who have visited the website and self-served don’t show up – so real numbers will be even higher.

Definitely a project to watch.

Links: Bournville Village Blog post about the Dashboard (via @pigsonthewing)

Creative Commons: Project 365: April 28 by cosmicautumn on Flickr

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2 comments

  1. Hello Kelly
    It was good to see you at Brewcamp last week. I think the sheer enthusiasm you demonstrated by coming such a long way was admirable.
    Thank you as well for such a nice write up on the Civic Dashboard. I agree with you that it is interesting how few people use the web to contact us. How can we improve this? Personally, I keep saying API to anybody that’ll listen. We need to move away from the idea that people must use our website and allow any site to embed a widget to let somebody raise a request with us.

    1. Hello Si,

      I thought Brewcamp was fantastic – well worth the journey. The Civic Dashboard is fascinating and such a great use of data, it’ll be so interesting to see how communities, councillors and services start to use the information it provides as it continue to build – and how the dashboard itself continues to evolve.

      I think that many people are still more comfortable using the phone as they like to speak to another person, or they come through to us when they can’t find what they need/want to know on our website or other channels. It also suggests that perhaps council websites aren’talways providing what our customers really need from us.

      I have to admit that your mention of API sent me off on a mission to find out more about them (I have scant technical knowledge on the subject tbh!). I’d agree that anything that allows people to access our information/raise a request from sites that they *choose* to use would definitely be a win. We need to go out to people, not expect them to always come to us. Especially as so many council websites have grown into labyrinths, requiring users to click through reams of information. Can see council websites needing to make big changes in the next few years.

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