CSR Dashboard team puts town ‘on the map’
By Lillian R. Handleman - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Fri., Feb. 17, 2012
In speculating about the future of technology 60 years ago, author George Orwell, envisioned a “telescreen” where public activity could be viewed and tracked. The equivalent to a modern-day surveillance camera, the concept now extends to a sophisticated online mapping application with which town officials in South Windsor can view online service requests from area residents. This new technology, the Citizen Service Request (CSR) Dashboard, serves as a visual conduit that relays residents’ issues to the appropriate town departments in an effort to have them resolved quickly.
An offshoot of the town’s already-established Geographical Information System (GIS), a two-dimensional parcel-mapping tool that provides town-related geographical information, the CSR Dashboard expands upon that by allowing the public to submit real-time requests for service, then lets them know the status of reported problems. It also keeps them informed of ongoing town projects such as detours and construction.
The CSR Dashboard was implemented in January, due to the town’s team of project designers that include Director of Public Works Mike Gantick, Director of Information Technology Scott Roberts and Java Script technician Dawn Mulholland. By partnering with ESRI (a mapping software service) to create a program that could manage data, track trends and give the town a central location for all public works, this team became the first to deploy this licensed, state-of-the-art technology.
Citizen reporting may include any geographical issue such as potholes or dead animals on the road, curb or lawn damage, trash pick-up, snow issues and more. “Now the reportings are all in one database, which increases accountability on our part so that we don’t let problems fall through the cracks,” said Gantick.
Users with a particular town reporting can simply log on to the website and topographically pinpoint the address and exact location of their service request, which then gets routed to the proper town department for efficient resolution. Citizens can report any issue from their home computer. For the technically challenged, there are tutorials and a video on the website to help them relay their online request. In addition, any device built on Adobe Flash allows a person to report something from their car, Roberts said. He added that Android and Apple iPhone free downloadable apps will be available soon.
“By linking our website to certain vendors, like trash and recycling, we get to see how long a reported issue has been open,” said Gantick. He added that residents making reports receive an e-mail informing them that their request has been received, and again when it has been resolved.
Gantick believes that using the site for snow plow operations might be a potential solution for statewide emergency situations, since the system can determine where roads are closed and trees and wires are down, and can locate trucks and police cruisers. “The underlying philosophy is, ‘If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,’” he said, noting that they were able to use GPS mapping to determine which contractors were collecting debris during last October’s snow storm and to locate the town’s leaf machines. “We were able to coordinate two projects at the same time and then give this information to the public to let them know the locations,” he said.
The applications are unlimited, according to Roberts, who envisions the Human Services Department using the system to assist with its Meals on Wheels program, or to use for dispatching community busses. Roberts says the heart of the program is in the integration. “We’re visual creatures,” he said. “When you can see something physically on a map, you begin to see patterns and recognize ways of doing things more efficiently.”
Another benefit of the CSR Dashboard is the elimination of paperwork normally needed for expediting service requests. “The reporting and trending capabilities are better than those of an excel sheet,” said Roberts, who noted that being able to calculate trends over time gives an added boost to the system’s efficiency.
Roberts added that they are working with the Department of Public Works to help develop the interface. “We own this and can change it,” he said. “We have the ability to be flexible, as opposed to buying a piece of software from a vendor. We want our software to be adaptable.”
Roberts noted that the Dashboard is housed internally so if there is no Internet, the system is still accessible as a tool for the town during emergency operations.
“We’re allowing you to engage government the way you wish to be engaged - 24/7,” he said. “Building synergy and teamwork among town staff, and ultimately with the public, is the real value of the Dashboard.”
Visit www.southwindsor.org/crsdashboard for more information or call 860-644-2511, ext. 242 or 288.