India, New Delhi: using Facebook and SMS to keep the city clean

With this photo on Facebook local resident Akshay Arora asks the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to "kindly send some one and get it clean this Toilet/Urinal". One day later on 7 April 2011, MCD replied: "Your complaint reference no. is 02/0704/SP"

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) launched its Facebook page in January 2011 and an integrated SMS service in March 2011 to enable public monitoring of garbage collection sites and public urinals/toilets in areas under its jurisdiction.The first experiences were positive as illustrated by the example of 22-year-old Piyush Goyal posted his complaint of garbage spilling over from the dump in his area.

On January 8, he clicked pictures of the seven dirty ones in South Delhi’s R K Puram area and posted them on Facebook. And the next day, he says, he saw the pictures of clean dhalaos uploaded by the MCD.

“There is lot of transparency through this way. The man who actually cleans it asked me why I uploaded the pictures. So the information is going from top to the bottom,” says Goyal.

MCD additional commissioner (engineering) Anshu Prakash added:

“This system is increasing transparency, fixing accountability and putting everything under public scrutiny. And none of us like to be ashamed in public. So people have started working at the bottom”.

If garbage isn’t collected or if urinals are not functioning, citizens can register complaints on the MCD Facebook page, along with photographs and location details. The MCD posts its responses directly on its Facebook page.

There are 2,078 garbage dumps, 1,033 public urinals, and 602 privatised urinals under MCD’s jurisdiction. These are listed on its Facebook page together with the names and contact details of the responsible Sanitation Superintendents.

Out of the MCD’s 12 zones, sanitation has been privatized in eight. And the new system, officials say, has increased the effectiveness. “Earlier we did not know whether a particular site has been cleaned or not. But through Facebook, till date 99 percent complaints have been addressed and the response time is also less than 24 hours,” says Anshu Prakash.

In March 2011, MCD expanded its service by launching a hotline that uses an interactive voice response system (IVRS) to register complaints. If citizens call from a mobile phone, they are sent an initial SMS with a reference number and an update SMS when their complaint has been addressed. The IVRS has now been integrated with MCD’s Facebook page.

Citizen’s movement ‘Let’s do it Delhi’ helped set up the MCD Facebook page and Gram Vaani Community Media  introduced the IVRS SMS service. Both organisations collaborated to develop the Facebook-IVRS interface.

As of 13 April 2011, MCD mentions on its Facebook page that it had received 397 complaints, of which only two had not yet been redressed.

If the social media experiment is successful, MCD may later used Facebook to monitor its other services like public health and roads.

Related web sites:

Source: Jasleen Kaur, Gov2.in, 17 Jan 2011 ; GN Bureau, Governance Now, 28 Mar 2011

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