Spenta wanted to develop a website that would allow citizens to participate more fully in the care of their communities by reporting problems such as potholes, graffiti, and broken traffic lights. By developing StreetCare in the cloud using Windows Azure, the technology firm offers governments an affordable way to increase citizen engagement, while more efficiently resolving public issues.
A member of the Microsoft Partner Network, Spenta develops software solutions for organizations in a wide variety of sectors, including government, healthcare, tourism, legal, financial, and retail. Its customers span more than 25 countries globally.
Many of the company’s public sector customers lacked a streamlined way to track citizen reports of potholes, graffiti, broken traffic lights, and other public problems. As a result, these problems often weren’t being reported—or resolved. Spenta wanted to provide a collaborative way for citizens and governments to resolve these issues. It was critical that the solution be affordable so that it would appeal to governments of all sizes. It was also important that it be interactive so that citizens could track how quickly and effectively the issues they reported were being resolved.
|The advantages of developing StreetCare in the cloud based on Windows Azure were enormous. It’s a value for citizens, it's a value for us, and it’s especially a value for governments.|
“We had two main goals,” says Jordi Plana, Chief Executive Officer of Spenta. “The first was to empower governments to better serve citizens in a cost-effective way. The second was to more fully engage citizens by encouraging them to collaborate in the care of their cities.”Solution
Spenta decided to create a central place where citizens could report and track public problems until they’re resolved. Called StreetCare (www.streetcare.com
), the website lets citizens log on with a Facebook or Twitter ID from their Internet browser or a special app created for Windows Phone (Figure 1).
After they log on, citizens can report graffiti, potholes, broken traffic lights, abandoned vehicles, abandoned furniture, or other problems by clicking on a specific category. They can also provide a description of the problem, upload pictures to show the issue visually, and pinpoint the location of the problem on a map. Once reported, the issue is available for everyone to see and comment on. Citizens can also track how long it takes to resolve the problem and rate the government’s effectiveness in solving the issue.
Spenta built StreetCare on Windows Azure, the cloud-based platform for building, hosting, and scaling applications in Microsoft data centers. The website was created by using the web browser plug-in Microsoft Silverlight to deliver a highly responsive user interface. Civil servants can track reported problems using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which provides a back-end case management system to handle each request.
The technology company began working on a prototype of StreetCare in January 2011 and started offering the solution to customers four months later, in April 2011. To date, three municipalities have implemented the solution, and many more government agencies are evaluating it. “It was an obvious decision to host StreetCare in the cloud because Windows Azure really reduces the time-to-market,” Plana says. “As a small company, it also lets us offer a very high level of reliability, availability, and scalability without having to invest in a heavy infrastructure. The ability to scale up very quickly has enabled us to expand our target market by orders of magnitude.”Benefits
By building StreetCare on Windows Azure and hosting the website within Microsoft data centers, Spenta has reduced the total cost of ownership for its government customers. It has also created an easy way for governments of all sizes to engage citizens and more efficiently resolve public problems.
|Figure 1. StreetCare Reporting Tool View|
Reduced Total Cost of Ownership
If a municipal government were to develop its own collaborative website and host it on-premises, Plana estimates the cost would be €120,000 to €150,000 (U.S.$174,004 to $217,522) in capital costs plus another €10,000 to €15,000 (U.S.$7,210 to $21,632) in annual operating costs to maintain the solution. In comparison, the municipalities that have implemented StreetCare as software as a service based on Windows Azure have spent an average €1,000 (U.S.$1,442) per month. “The advantages of developing StreetCare in the cloud based on Windows Azure were enormous,” says Plana. “It’s a value for citizens, it’s a value for us, and it’s especially a value for governments because they only pay for what they use. There are no up-front costs, and the barrier of entry has been virtually eliminated even for the smallest governments.”
Greater Citizen Engagement
By building StreetCare on Windows Azure, Spenta has not only created an affordable solution; it has also provided an easy way for governments to operate transparently and encourage citizen involvement.
“Before, if citizens wanted to report a problem, they’d either have to make a telephone call, in which case the phone might be busy, or go to the government website and send an email,” Plana says. “StreetCare is much more interactive. It encourages an open dialogue about the issues that need to be resolved, and increases citizen awareness of what’s happening in the city.”
More Responsive Government
StreetCare has also provided civil servants with an efficient way to organize and prioritize problems, reducing the time required to fix them—and increasing government responsiveness.
“In the end, government officials pursue re-election, and they all want to be perceived as effective,” Plana says. “With StreetCare, citizens have the feeling that government officials really care about their day-to-day problems. The bottom line is that they’re happier with their government.”
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